Stress, worry, grief, despair, anxiety, depression. In lockstep with the worldwide pandemic, all of these emotions have spread across the globe. Hospice staff may be accustomed to these challenges in the field — but not like this.
The age of COVID-19 is presenting unique challenges for the industry. Most working in hospice organizations are struggling to some degree.1 Some are obviously at wits’ end. Others seem to be managing well. But even those showing few clear signs are likely worn down after more than six months of this crisis.
If hospice staff burnout2 is common in normal times,3 how are hospice organizations supposed to manage it in a time like this?
There are no surefire ways to get it right, and everybody is learning on the fly. But the following tips should help lower stress levels and ease the burden to at least some degree.
1. Encourage Downtime
With resources and staffing strained, some companies are worried about missed time. While this is understandable, creating a pressure-filled environment right now is not in anyone’s best interest. Surely, no company is actively trying to do this. But the tone at the top funnels down. The better path is to make sure you’re getting the most out of everyone — not just their time. Encourage breaks and even personal days when necessary. This way, more crucial work will actually get done and burnout should be reduced.
2. Don’t Go It Alone
Staff should be encouraged to collaborate more and lean on their colleagues. Fortunately, one silver lining of most crises is that people naturally band together. It’s just human nature. Try to cultivate this in the workplace and develop a mindset where everyone is willing to fill in for others when necessary. This doesn’t mean abandoning accountability. That could lead to resentment and workers feeling like they are picking up the slack for others who won’t do their part. With the right approach, however, these two realities can go hand in hand.
3. Promote Mental Health
Counterintuitively, medical professionals are often the last to ask for help when they’re struggling. This can be seen in matters of the body, heart, and mind as well as burnout.4 It’s important for managers to recognize this and intervene when appropriate. Partner with human resources to make sure everything is implemented properly then work to promote mental health awareness and offer access to support systems. Encourage employees to take advantage of stress management and anxiety reduction opportunities.
4. Encourage General Wellness
Beyond targeted mental health services and tips, hospice staff will likely stay fresher — physically and mentally — if they are practicing general wellness and self care. Employers shouldn’t beat people over the head. It can become preachy, and nobody needs that right now. But try to find ways to offer practical tips and concrete methods to improve wellness, such as discounts for healthy eating or info on outdoor physical activities that can be done safely.
5. Rely on Resources
Study5 after study6 reveals that everyone — no matter the field — feels more fulfilled when they believe their work has meaning. That isn’t hard to find in a hospice environment, where life and death are a daily concern. The larger mission can get lost in the shuffle, however, when individuals end up spending the majority of their shift on busywork. Instead, make sure they have the tech tools and equipment they need to streamline the dull parts of the day. That way, they can reserve their limited mental energy for the stuff that actually matters.
Looking to help your workers avoid burnout? Our Optima Hospice EHR solution for hospice management is a surefire way to make everything run more efficiently and ease the burden on staff.
1. New York Times, “‘I Can’t Turn My Brain Off’: PTSD and Burnout Threaten Medical Workers,” May 16, 2020
2. Net Health, “Hospice Burnout: It’s Real…and It’s Preventable,” July 1, 201
3. National Association for Home Care & Hospice, “Hospice in the Time of COVID-19: Findings from the NAHC National Survey,” May 26, 2020
4. Locumstory, “Physician workload survey 2018,” August 1, 2018
5. Harvard Business Review, “9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work,” November 6, 2018
6. American Psychological Association, “More than Job Satisfaction,” December 2013