Hear Me, Protect Me, Prepare Me, Support Me and Care for Me.
The Pandemic. The Crisis. The worst economic times we have seen in decades. Furloughs. Unemployment. Federal loans. What other ways will we remember 2020 to date? Let’s add on top of this:
- 15+ hour days and nights
- Mandatory work schedules
- High-Stress environments
- Chaotic work pace
- Treating COVID-19 patients hands-on
- Limited access to childcare
- Lack of personal protective equipment
- Shortage of beds and equipment
Now we are getting a clearer picture of what our healthcare heroes are working through during these times. These are the people that are on the frontlines every day making sure we are all safe, and they cannot be overlooked.
When Dr. Shanafelt, Dr. Ripp and Dr. Trockel came together to study how we can best support our healthcare professionals, the response they received was Hear Me, Protect Me, Prepare Me, Support Me and Care for Me. These are the most common desires that physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers, residents and fellows said they needed from their institutions.
It’s no surprise that healthcare professionals want to be heard, and this means having a way to provide feedback without fear of repercussions. They want their voice factored into the decision-making process because it is their lives on the line. Many institutions have a system in place to get feedback, but does the staff trust that system? Will there be consequences for speaking out? It is crucial in times like these that trust is restored between leadership and staff. A way to collect feedback and act on that feedback is vital to make staff feel heard and cared for.
Protect Me, Prepare Me and Support Me all fall into a similar category in that healthcare professionals want to be able to take the necessary precautions so they do not become infected or pass the virus on. These are scary times, and no one wants to be responsible for transmitting the virus to another person. The proper equipment, procedures and training need to be put in place by the institution to eliminate this fear.
Finally, Care for Me. Childcare, lodging, and other basic needs must be cared for so that clinicians can focus on doing their jobs. Institutions should be setting up policies to take care of these things so that providers feel cared for. And this cannot start and end with physicians. This must extend to all frontline staff as they are all sacrificing to help others. Communities can (some have already) step up here as well. Getting meals to families, cheering the healthcare workers on and doing what they can with what they have to support our Healthcare Heroes during this time can go a long way.
President of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Megan Brunson was recently asked what she believes the long-term concerns will be for nurses during this time. Her response was moral distress and burnout.
The Critical Care Societies Collaborative (of which AACN is a part) has placed a priority on [addressing] burnout. This pandemic is going to elevate it even more. We have to recognize that nurses are experiencing not only more stress but also ethical dilemmas. We have nurses who are managing ethical concerns during a disaster in a crisis situation. We're confronted with our standards being altered. It's not just one time. It's constantly going back to work with those challenges. So, I do worry about the long-term effects of burnout and moral distress and the ethical challenges.”
Now is not the time to push off caring about well-being in the healthcare system. Now is the time to make sure that healthcare heroes are heard, protected, prepared, supported and cared for. A large portion of our healthcare workforce is at a high level of distress, leaving them at an increased risk of many adverse outcomes including medical error, depression and suicide. Together we can prioritize well-being right now, when they need it most, and change the outcome.
Here are several resources to help organizations reduce distress during COVID-19:
Sunny Prabhakar is a Well-Being Index Expert who has worked with hundreds of healthcare organizations around the world to identify and reduce the causes of distress, improve the well-being of their staff, and Go Beyond Burnout.