NHIA 2023 Session Highlight: Navigating Post-Pandemic Stress for You and Your Team 

As we enter the third year since the global pandemic and a return to “normal,” you might expect that trauma and anxiety related to the crisis would be waning. In fact, the opposite is true, according to Alissa Putman, PhD with Johns Hopkins Community Physicians. In 2022, 65% of psychologists reported an increase in symptom severity, including stress, anxiety, and depression. All of which can affect health care’s most precious resource: its workers. 

“Burnout equals disengagement,” says Putman, “and we know that health care worker engagement is directly correlated to patient safety and patient experience.” More than half of nurses (52%) and 20% of physicians are planning to leave the profession, which will only add to workforce shortages, which will contribute to further burnout for those that remain. “It’s a vicious cycle,” observes Putman. 

Fortunately, managers can play a role in reaching distressed and disengaged workers by offering resources and building a culture of wellness. Wellbeing should be defined and adopted as a strategic priority, which provides room for self-care, personal and professional growth, and compassion for colleagues, patients, and yourself. “Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement,” says Putnam. Today’s leaders can benefit from adopting these skills:

  • Praise – Catch people doing things right 
  • Care – Spend a minute asking employees how they are doing 
  • Listen and learn – everyone has something valuable to say 
  • Clear communication – use simple and clear communication to be sure no employee is ever surprised 
  • Support – ask how you can help 
  • Atmosphere – show positivity 
  • Accountability – hold yourself and others accountable 
  • Awareness – pay attention to how you are feeling, as well as how your employees are feeling

Building resilience is key, she adds, which often includes shifting perspective. “Look for opportunities, reconnect with the joy of medicine, identify resources, and make a commitment to self-care.” 

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