The healthcare staffing shortage continues to cripple every medical institution in the US. While you may have seen different hiring strategies to combat it, a vital issue remains to be discussed: the lack of solid and systematic support for existing, gradually draining healthcare workers.
Registered nurses are one of the most impacted groups of healthcare professionals in the recent global health situation. Their stress levels pile up as the workload-to-worker ratio remains unbalanced. In addition, COVID-19 continues to take a toll on nurses’ emotional and mental health. With healthcare facilities as their second home, how can you support healthcare workers’, particularly nurses’, well-being?
Before we help answer this question, let’s first understand the various existing and pandemic-induced issues that nurses face in the healthcare sector today.
Challenges in Healthcare Today
It cannot be denied that the pandemic waged war on everyone, with healthcare professionals and leaders at the frontlines. The health situation shocked the healthcare system, and its effects continue to leave the sector with issues to resolve.
Decreasing Number of Nurses
Pew Research reported that 20 percent of healthcare workers quit their jobs during the pandemic. Of those who stayed, 33 percent of them have thought about quitting. As a result, it is forecast that 195,000 vacancies for registered nurses will be present yearly until 2030. This declining number of nurses can cause workload increases and longer shifts, which can negatively influence the desire of remaining nurses to stay.
Burnout and Anxiety
The American Hospital Association stated that 76 percent of healthcare workers experience exhaustion and burnout, while 86 percent experience anxiety. Worse, psychological distress can lead to physical illnesses such as headaches, stomachaches, and even increased use of alcohol or drugs. These are critical issues that also need attention because while numbers of nurses dwindle quickly, the minds and bodies of those in service also face a high risk of breakdown.
Faulty Healthcare Delivery Models
According to Mckinsey & Company, 200,000 to 450,000 nurse vacancies may happen by 2025 if current care delivery models do not change. It is because existing healthcare delivery models put a heavy burden on the role of nurses. This study reminds healthcare companies that while addressing workforce shortage is a priority, the current care delivery models should also be kept in check.
Strengthening Support to Healthcare Workers
Pair an influx of patients with faulty healthcare delivery models, and surely medical professionals will experience distress that may compel them to leave. If this continues for a long time without your proper support, nurses will be tempted to choose a better place where they can work without these inconveniences.
As their employer, you can support your nurses in managing all the stress and pressure through crisis intervention and psychological first aid practices. With these, you can help nurses overcome some of the work challenges they face and create a system that will strengthen them.
1. Hold meetings solely for storytelling.
According to the University of Utah, meetings at American Nurses Association begin with 90-second stories. The purpose of this 90-second icebreaker is to connect people via good news or otherwise.
The effectiveness of storytelling in creating connections with fellow nurses has been evident in these studies:
- An article from the Journal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing proved that storytelling could be a strong moral support for healthcare workers. While storytellers were able to convey their emotions, listeners were able to make meaning from said stories. It ultimately created a therapeutic connection between the two groups.
- From a study in JCO Oncology Practice, oncology nurses exhibited improved well-being when introduced to storytelling, stress management, reflective writing, and songwriting practices. In addition, decreased loneliness and increased self-compassion were observed.
Given the proven positive effects of storytelling, you can explore holding meetings that stand solely for sharing stories. With your specific prompts, nurses should be able to tell encounters centered on their feelings, good or bad. This way, everyone will be reminded that anyone can experience both pleasant and unpleasant days in the workplace.
However, you must also remind participants that this meeting was meant to connect and not for criticism. It should be an open event, where anyone who joins and feels uneasy during listening and sharing can be excused to take care of themselves.
2. Encourage self-care.
As all humans do, nurses need to care for their own well-being. Therefore, they must engage in self-care activities not only to support their minds but also to sustain their fortitude in the workplace. A study at the University of Texas at Tyler revealed that self-care strategies such as massage therapy, yoga, and mindfulness lower nurse burnout rates.
As their employer, it will help if you give them time to recuperate from duties but encourage them as well to practice different self-care activities to reshape their thoughts and actions.
3. Implement psychological first aid when needed.
According to the University of Minnesota, PFA focuses on attentiveness to act accordingly. This practice includes providing practical assistance such as food and water during traumatic events. However, more than that, incident command systems and first responder teams must listen to nurses’ concerns and relay actionable guides for nurses to create personal coping strategies.
A 2021 PMC study found that psychological first aid (PFA) can suffice in providing emotional health support for nurses. This study consisted of 1,319 respondents, where 90 percent consisted of nurses and support staff. In the beginning, 20 percent of them reported they were going through an emotional crisis. When PFA was implemented, testimonies, such as “it helps to talk” and “it’s thoughtful,” stood as anecdotal evidence of PFA’s effectiveness.
4. End every shift with a huddle.
Johns Hopkins University created a format for an end-of-shift huddle where nurses can come together to share knowledge and experiences. With this, they can talk about what happened in their daily duty.
Nurses can dissect negative occurrences and solve problems in the workplace. They can also discuss positive experiences and share the things they look forward to – whether going home or out. This way, they can leave their workplaces with their morale refreshed, and their perspectives renewed.
From a study published in Seton Hall University, all 210 nurses positively reacted when huddles were introduced before changing shifts. The study proved that:
- Nursing staff positively perceived huddles, a mindset they did not have before implementing the said practice.
- Nurses learned about different patients, processes, equipment, and supplies in specific nursing units.
- Call-out and tardiness rates were decreased.
Light The Path to Overcoming Challenges
The nursing shortage can still be fixed, and understaffed hospitals can still be filled. One best way to prevent staffing shortages is to support present healthcare workers while creating a robust hiring strategy for future medical professionals.
Nursing programs focused on psychological support can ignite a fire within nurses’ hearts. When they feel solid support from your end, they can do better than expected. However, this fire should not just be ignited. It must be maintained.
Keep the fire burning by proactively enacting support programs for nurses and healthcare workers in general. With these, you can be sure that fire will light up a path to helping nurses overcome challenges. There is no better time to do it than today.
CONTINUE TO BUILD A WORKFORCE THAT UPHOLDS THE BEST HEALTHCARE PRACTICES WITH PRS GLOBAL.
Supporting the existing workforce will only accomplish half of the battle against nursing shortage. The second half must still be addressed by finding people willing to carry the labor with vigor and resolve. That’s where PRS Global shines most.
With our candidate selection process, top global nurses in the field are on our side and ready to serve the healthcare sector. And with our partnership, you can create a line-up of nurses who will help solve current problems while they promote connections within the workplace.
Contact us today, and let us create the best healthcare practices with the best healthcare practitioners.