November 4, 2020
Helping staff deal with pandemic stress

As COVID-19 persists, staffing remains a top concern

How to support your employees and boost retention

 

By now, operators are well aware of the exorbitant expenses associated with the pandemic. From PPE and testing supplies to special training and sanitation, the financial impact has been a huge burden. Administrators and managers are working tirelessly to ensure resident safety, all while struggling to keep their facilities afloat.

But in the midst of the chaos, another problem has flown under the radar. Experts predict that beyond coronavirus-related costs, facilities will soon see a surge in vacancies due to worker stress and burnout. Without adequate emotional support and physical protection, nurses are bound to reach their breaking point.

“Our direct caregivers haven’t been supported going back really to the beginning of the pandemic, in terms of either pay or personal protective equipment and testing,” says Professor David Grabowski of Harvard Medical School. “I think at some point they’re going to evaluate their options and just say, ‘We can’t do this anymore.’”
 

The long wait for long-term care

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How to bolster stressed staff

 
Unlike police and other first responders, many healthcare workers have never been exposed to the kind of carnage and despair we’ve seen with COVID-19.

And of course, the vast majority of operators would increase staff pay and secure a massive stockpile of PPE if they could. But since money is a key factor, that’s not necessarily feasible. To support worker wellbeing and mitigate future turnover, consider these low-cost recommendations for helping employees cope.
 

Actively monitor staff

 
People in leadership positions should be aware of the risk factors associated with mental health problems and watch staff closely. If you observe emotional responses to the pandemic, individuals may be referred for counseling with a professional.

“They can become more attuned to staff comments that might indicate distress, such as mentions of difficulty sleeping or excessive drinking. They might be more mindful of arguments between workers as a possible sign of trauma-related irritability,” says Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D.
 

Promote meditation and education

 
If monetary incentives are not possible, support staff with additional training, seminars, or handouts on how to survive workplace stress. Acknowledging a fellow worker’s anxiety and offering help could be the difference between them quitting or sticking it out.

Barbera notes, “In addition to department heads, include unit nurses and others who are in the position to observe the emotional responses and interactions of their teams.”
 

Take care of you too

 
In order to set a healthy example, managers need to monitor their own psychological wellbeing during these troubled times. At-risk team members will most certainly turn to you for guidance when struggling with their own emotional management.

“Long-term care leaders themselves have their own stresses during this pandemic and may have to dip deep in order to find emotional resources to help their subordinates,” says Barbera. “One of the consistent recommendations regarding assisting others is to ‘fill your own well first.’”

 

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