The COVID-19 pandemic has had a terrible impact on nurses, many of whom have been and continue to be on the frontlines of care during this crisis. In her article, “10 Trends for 2021: Pandemic Drastically Changes Healthcare Landscape,” Robin Rose, VP, Healthcare Resource Group, HealthStream, contrasts doctors’ relatively brief encounters with patients to those for nurses, who spend more time in close contact with those afflicted with COVID-19. In addition to this risk of infection, there can be chronic workplace stress involved, leading to an even higher level of burnout than is typical for the profession. Even worse for nurses is a seeming inability to care for themselves, demonstrated in a recent survey of more than 12,000 nurses by HealthStream, Nurse Grid, and Keener, where less than one-fourth of nurses expressed strong agreement with the following statements about self-care:
Rose writes, “As the pandemic is prolonged through 2021, will healthcare workers be able to maintain their wellbeing, master the stresses of their environment, and perform at the level that is needed? University of Arizona researchers fear nurse and medical provider burnout could be the next COVID-19 crisis.” Strategies targeting nurse retention are going to be very important as the dust settles.
Nurse Retention Strategies After COVID-19
Here are some of the ways healthcare organizations can work to retain nurses after the COVID-19 crisis has ebbed.
According to HealthLeaders, as an important preparation for the aftermath of COVID-19, “health systems should identify good nurse leaders and support them… developing nurse leaders and others with sufficient leadership skills will help inspire their teams, put staff needs first, and position them as trustworthy mentors who can provide guidance for reducing the symptoms of burnout.” Leaders need to “have succession plans in place early on by identifying potential candidates and then providing them with consistent coaching and mentoring. A succession plan would include identifying individuals who have goals to be leaders and the necessary skills and education. Leadership courses would be used to educate them on the essential skills of leaders.”
The emergency environment of COVID-19 has resulted in many nurses’ assumption of roles outside those for which they were prepared or trained. Many in the nursing profession will be thinking of career transitions and new directions. Healthcare organizations will improve the likelihood of retaining nurses by having more options available. Some tactics may be to encourage nurses to explore new areas or facilitate additional training for specialized roles.
Purdue University’s Karen Foli, associate professor of nursing in the College of Health and Human Sciences, reminds readers that nurses caring for COVID-19 patients are experiencing psychological trauma. Even before our pandemic, it was common for nurses in crisis situations to “report symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder): intrusive thoughts, sleep disturbances, hypervigilance, ‘brain fog’ and flashbacks. They felt unsafe, isolated and dissatisfied with the profession. As nurses, they felt like failures. One former bedside nurse quit, opting instead for office work, where her ‘level of trauma and stress is virtually nonexistent.’” She recommends that healthcare organizations “need to offer trauma-informed care to both nurse and patient. Meaningful connections with others is critical, but so is psychological safety.” It is incredibly important for healthcare leadership to ensure that their institutions are sufficiently focused “on the mental health needs of health care providers.”
An article in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health advocates that healthcare organizations avoid taking a “a stoic approach to healthcare worker support during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Nurses are more likely to continue working for organizations that demonstrate a commitment to their welfare, especially during trying times. Furthermore, “leaders need to adopt a holistic consideration of worker psychological safety—one that recognizes the broader impact of emotional distress created by COVID-19. Meaningful support for emotional distress during the pandemic, enables healthcare workers to trust that their organization has their backs, which in turn, enables them to feel psychologically safe and empowered to communicate safety concerns and problem-solving strategies to managers, thereby enabling resilience to advance from individual to organizational levels.”
HealthStream Focuses on Nurses and Clinical Development
At HealthStream we spend a lot of time focused on improving outcomes by supporting and developing the clinical workforce. This will continue to be important once the COVID-19 pandemic has receded. HealthStream’s jane™ is The World’s First Digital Mentor for Nurses. Jane harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create a system that personalizes competency development at scale, quickly identifies risk and opportunity, and improves quality outcomes by focusing on critical thinking. Leveraging decades of research and with over 4 million assessments completed, Jane was designed to power lifelong, professional growth of clinical professionals. JaneTM is an important component of HealthStream’s suite of clinical development solutions.
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