Everywhere we turn there are stories about how the flu is slamming the country. With an epidemic comes high patient volumes that stretch resources across the healthcare system from emergency departments and inpatient units to physician practices, imaging, lab, and pharmacies. News stories are everywhere about how consumers can try to avoid the virus and how to manage symptoms, but little is being said about caring for the overstretched staff. It’s important to remember that providers and staff are being stretched to their limit in many cases. The patient experience is interwoven with the employee experience, so be sure to take good care of your team during this taxing flu season.
Healthcare leaders can be supportive by being present; pitch in if possible and by all means give recognition for the hard work. Personally thank staff and providers and send notes. In fact, send notes to the staff’s families thanking them for sharing their mom, dad, or spouse with your hospital or practice. After all, weeks of overtime can take its toll on family life.
Communication, recognition, and innovation are always important to the culture but become even more significant during times of prolonged high volume. Encourage staff to share ideas about how to manage processes and maintain positive morale.
If you have the resources, reward staff who are working extra shifts with meals delivered to the department or gift certificates for a dinner that can be delivered to their homes and families. If you are fortunate enough to have an in-house service like Errand Solutions, encourage staff to use their services to help keep things afloat at home. They can manage a multitude of errands from dry cleaning, grocery shopping, and oil changes to yard work and arranging dinner deliveries for staff.
During periods of high census, it’s normal for leaders to shift into resource-management mode where you focus on the cerebral part of supply and demand. Don’t forget that people—your team—are at the heart of that equation. One of the most important things a leader can do during prolonged periods of high census is to keep morale up. It’s one thing for your staff to kick it into high gear for a few days, but it takes a bolus of energy and fortitude to keep it up for weeks at a time. Remember, your team is working hard and needs to know that you care, that you recognize their efforts, that they are making a difference, and that they have your support. Your encouragement is the most effective vaccination against burnout. So roll up your sleeves!