Supporting healthcare professionals’ wellness during post-pandemic burnout
13 de junio de 2023
Por MJ Erickson-Hogue, MD, FAAP
As the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, healthcare organizations are still dealing with the fallout.
The emotional toll on nurses(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana) and physicians(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana) has left many with high team member turnover. Survey data from Elsevier Health’s 2022 Clinician of the Future report suggest that only about half of clinicians surveyed indicate a positive work-life balance. Reports of declining work-life balance may be an early indicator of healthcare provider burnout.
In fact, a growing number of professionals indicate that they will leave the profession or change roles due to burnout. Concern has heightened about a global shortage of doctors and nurses. According to the Clinician of the Future survey, respondents believe there will be a shortage of nurses (74% agreed globally) and doctors (68% agreed globally). Health care provider shortage may have a greater impact in North America and Europe, and especially in the UK, where just under 90% of clinicians expect shortages. As workloads and pressures mount, clinicians are leaving their professions at an alarming rate. The impact on global healthcare is already evident.
Supporting the mental wellbeing of the healthcare team
As the pandemic subsides, the long-term effects of COVID-19 on healthcare teams are anticipated to continue. Healthcare providers must acknowledge and support their team members’ mental and physical concerns with flexibility and compassion while encouraging appropriate self-care.
Building resiliency is key to both prevention and care for professionals experiencing burnout. In our webinar series(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana), leading experts probe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on front-line clinicians. Each video is under five minutes and features insights, recommendations, and tools to help healthcare teams build resiliency to support mental health and wellness while concomitantly providing clinical care for others.
To help provide clinicians strategies to cope with fatigue and burnout, Elsevier has developed a series of short mindfulness meditations(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana) specifically for health professionals. A short daily practice may help improve clinician wellbeing and resilience by creating a foundation for contending with difficult events. Improved healthcare provider wellness translates to improved delivery of clinical care to patients.
The impact of long COVID on healthcare workers
During the height of the pandemic, six percent(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana) of those hospitalized with COVID-19 were healthcare professionals(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana). It is not simply the mental burnout that has many healthcare professionals struggling, but also the physical effects of long COVID symptoms. Long COVID may follow(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana) SARS-CoV2 infection. Some manifestations of long COVID may include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, difficulty sleeping, and brain fog.
Even a small percentage of clinicians unable to work secondary to long COVID can produce a significant impact on systems and providers already dealing with high turnover and staff shortages. Support for healthcare workers dealing with long COVID, while maintaining a high level of patient care, is imperative at an organizational level. Some measures may include:
Education and support: Many clinicians might not be aware they are dealing with long COVID or do not want to admit it for fear of loss of income. Organizations can support their team(se abre en una nueva pestaña/ventana) with peer support groups, and, more importantly, a culture of psychological safety (i.e., sharing without fear of repercussions).
Flexible or reduced workload: While healthcare providers are dealing with their symptoms, consider temporarily offering reduced work hours or less physically demanding assignments.
Access to care: Patients deserve access to quality care; likewise, so do healthcare professionals. Organizations must ensure that providers have access to appropriate specialists and treatment to maintain quality of clinical care during difficult times.
While the pandemic may soon be an entity of the past, continued aftereffects are evident. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a glimpse into the fragile nature of healthcare systems and highlighted the risks that individual providers may face during prolonged periods of stress without the proper training, support, and care from their colleagues and organization. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to bolster strategies to weather future storms and ensure clinicians are given the resources they need to provide the best care to their patients and community.
If you or a healthcare worker you know is in need of immediate support, call the Physician Support Line: +1-888-409-0141.