Over the past 7+ years of working in the healthcare industry, I’ve witnessed many clinicians who struggle with self care. This has exponentially increased since the start of the COVID19 pandemic. Healthcare providers are so invested in their clients and go above and beyond to help them, but at what cost? The hospitals, companies or small practices they work for struggle to strike a healthy balance because of this continuous conflict: full patient schedule equals more income in the short term but longer term more burnout and therefore more turnover and lesser quality of care which could equal less clientele and thus less income. Is there a solid return on investment when health care companies invest in self care resources for their staff? It’s hard to know because so few healthcare organizations provide such resources.
I’ve long envied my friends and relatives who work in the technology sector. They are given so many perks. One of which is usually unlimited vacation. If not unlimited vacation, generous paid time off and usually at least a few paid days off for mental health that they can choose to use whenever they please. I have not witnessed this mental health paid time off perk in any other sector. Why is this perk non-existent in healthcare? Healthcare providers advise their clients to practice self care but often struggle to practice it themselves because their hospital/company doesn’t given them the resources and flexibility to take this time for themselves.
From my experience, I see several ways of approaching this rampant endemic of burnout in healthcare and across many sectors. First, if companies can’t afford to provide sufficient mental health care days off or enough paid time off, then establish a health and wellness program within your organization. Something as simple as starting with providing frequent self care tips and tricks to staff can motivate them to implement small changes in their lives that could prevent them from leaving the company or the profession. Second, encourage staff to take their lunch breaks and schedule in breaks as needed. Taking a brain break and getting a change of scenery is very important for improving the quality of care being given and prevent burnout in the future. Third, look into the health insurance plans offered and see if there are any economical perks that could be added into the benefits package to encourage staff to be at their healthiest. Fourth, encourage staff to take the time off they have and not roll it over or lose it completely. Taking time away is an important way to recharge your batteries and come back to work refreshed and producing even higher quality care. Finally, invest in fun events for staff to attend. With hybrid and remote work and healthcare providers being inundated with clientele, feeling a sense of community has become increasingly difficult and loneliness has hit an all-time high. Something as simple as raffles, holiday parties, and seasonal gatherings can all make a difference in a person’s sense of belonging and as a result, increase their happiness with their employer.
These changes require some investment and have to be supported from the top down, otherwise staff will not engage with them. If the directors, managers, and executives model these behaviors and get behind these initiatives, then the rest of the staff will follow. Investing in self care and health and wellness programs and ensuring morale is high, is long term investment that will pay off with less burnout and lower turnover. Burnout is a preventable consequence that with proper interventions can increase the quality of care clinicians are providing, and increase overall job satisfaction amongst staff.