By Adrian Johansen, freelance writer; @ AdrianJohanse18.
Hospital workers are burned out. The US doctor shortage is getting worse and COVID-19 variants are filling intensive care units from coast to coast.
In late August, US Army veteran Daniel Wilkinson made the news: die of a treatable disease outside of Houston simply because hospital beds weren’t available. Parts of the country, like Louisiana, are unable to provide ambulance services and other critical hospital functions due to floods.
It’s times like these when our employees are at the forefront and risk everything to cope with the high patient influx while ensuring the best possible care. As a HR manager, you also have the opportunity to provide your hospital staff with professional and personal support.
Communicate in order to fill roles efficiently and effectively
“One-third of the doctors currently working in the United States are expected to reach retirement age in the next decade,” and the aging American population will require increasing care for a growing number of chronic diseases and conditions. The shortage of doctors in the US is going nowhere, especially given the rise in COVID-19 variants.
That means HR staff are working overtime to fill in the gaps. If doctors become ill or unable to work for other reasons, fill-ins are also the order of the day. Communicating with your hospital staff can help you better understand their needs. Maybe they need a nurse who specializes in critical care, or maybe a doctor with experience in infectious diseases. Increasing the number of nurses hired can also help fill the void that retired doctors leave behind.
Quit rates are higher than ever, and one way to address the talent shortage is to let your talent strategy go. Maintaining a database of pre-screened, qualified applicants can help streamline the hiring process that could otherwise take weeks or months. The recruiting culture is changing rapidly to allow for faster recruitment and more efficient communication.
Promote positive habits
Due to the shortage of doctors caused by the pandemic, aging medical service providers and an increase in chronic illnesses, doctors and nurses are few and far between nowadays. If they come to work tired or in bad weather, their performance decreases.
As an HR professional, it’s never good to hear that your employees are tired and overworked. This is especially a problem if your staff is responsible for the well-being of tens to hundreds of patients every day.
Fortunately, you can encourage your employees to get some real sleep. If they have trouble, you can Recommend a memory foam mattress, give evening relaxation tips and lead crash courses in meditation. Other positive habits that you can nurture as an HR professional include limiting your caffeine intake in the evening, following a regular sleep schedule, and encouraging your hospital staff to exercise.
Better still, you can lead by example by following the same positive habits and stress management techniques. Once they see the results firsthand, your hospital staff will be sure to follow suit.
Offer tips on mental health management
Any office can be stressful. Where there are deadlines, meetings and uniforms, there is inevitably a high level of stress. In the hospital environment, especially during a global pandemic, the risk of stress-related physical and psychological consequences is greatly increased.
Studies show that in normal times over 25% or 1 in 4 American adults, will experience the effects of mental illness during a calendar year. For doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic, increased stress, anxiety, and depression have plagued health workers. The side effects most commonly reported by hospital staff include insomnia, headaches and abdominal pain, and increases in drug and alcohol use.
Interestingly, only a few respondents named overwork as one of their main stressors. Rather, doctors and medical personnel across the board have to contend with the risk of virus exposure and the burden of additional protective equipment. As a result, another survey by Mental Health America found “93% of healthcare workers suffered from stress, 86% said they were afraid, 77% reported frustration, 76% reported exhaustion and burnout, and 75% said they were overwhelmed.
Mental health can be difficult to manage even in the best of times, but dealing with depression and anxiety can be more difficult during COVID-19, especially for our frontline workers. Here are a few of Top tips for managing mental illness during the pandemic:
- Promotion of telemedicine service providers.
- Maintain a healthy routine and make sure you get a good night’s sleep.
- Practice mindfulness.
- If necessary, seek additional help through therapy or medication.
Adaptation to COVID-19 HR changes
Stopping by your employees from time to time can make all the difference in terms of their mental health and productivity, especially if you work in a high pressure area like medicine.
For example, hospital staff may require additional security protocols if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. Understanding applicable labor laws, following recommended cleaning protocols, and determining the best way to inform colleagues are essential steps in navigating the post-pandemic world. Additionally, your company’s focus on diversity and mental health prioritization for hospital staff who often don’t have the flexibility or the resources to work from home can make all the difference.
Just like medical providers, HR workers need to stay connected in today’s ever-changing hiring landscape. HR is a job that requires flexibility, communication and a real knack for dealing with people. By working diligently to fill the hiring gaps and increase office morale, you can help lift the spirits of some of America’s most valuable front-line workers during a health crisis.
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