This blog is taken from a recent HealthStream webinar entitled “Mind Matters: The Interplay of Staff Wellness in Quality Outcomes.” The webinar was moderated by HealthStream’s Caroline Acree and featured:
With 1 in 3 healthcare workers planning to leave their jobs due to anxiety, depression and exhaustion, at a point where the industry can ill afford to lose them, healthcare leaders need to create a strategic plan to address these stressors with the goal of supporting and retaining employees to produce quality outcomes.
Van Brunt began by framing the issue as a national mental health crisis that affects every organization and community in the country. Whether the workforce is largely remote or on-site, he stressed the importance of leadership taking an active role.
He recommended that organizations take a two-pronged approach that includes both qualitative and quantitative assessments. Human Resources professionals will likely be able to make qualitative assessments based on the kinds of complaints they are receiving, the nature and severity of those complaints, and the reviews that they see on boards.
He also encouraged leaders to evaluate quantitative data such as claims, PTO, complaints, and assessments. He supported assessments as a quantifiable way to establish a baseline for the organization that can be tracked over time and customized to meet the changing needs of the organization. He also encouraged leaders to look beyond the standard assessment questions about burnout and depression and include questions about psychological safety.
Acree asked the presenters to share some of the challenges that they and their customers had encountered and how to address those challenges. Poston shared an example of a high-stress behavioral health unit. In addition to the expected stressors that are found in a behavioral health unit, she reported that there was a lack of psychological safety throughout the organization that resulted in a reluctance to report negative staff interactions, a lack of accountability, and poor communication from leadership. Both the employee and patient experiences were impacted. Many employees resigned in frustration and eventually the manager was replaced, but it took months for the new leader to re-establish trust.
Stepney added that it was important to develop a proactive strategy by understanding the root causes of the kind of situation described above. She encouraged leaders to re-examine some of the policies that have led to situations where wellness has been compromised.
Van Brunt also shared an example of a manager who was concerned about burnout on his team and undertook a burnout assessment. As part of the process, the manager took the assessment and discovered that he was experiencing some burnout as well. After using some of the recommended mental wellness resources, he noticed a positive change in himself. He led by example and his team followed by participating in the assessment and using the resources.
When investing in staff wellness, it is important to measure the success of those initiatives. So, what should leaders be tracking? Poston encouraged leaders to ensure that they would be able to classify survey results by various demographic dimensions such as race, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. All these attributes can impact both wellness and performance and can help inform what the wellness initiatives should include. She also urged leaders to assess wellness at times other than the annual organizational review. Managers can seek feedback through quick pulse checks that provide intermediate feedback on wellness as well as the success of ongoing initiatives.
Leaders also need to ensure that the organization’s approach to wellness is inclusive and adaptable. Where should leaders start? Van Brunt admitted that this was challenging and offered some best practices. He shared that creating psychological safety was foundational as these initiatives would rely on interactivity and collaboration, and allowing people to co-create how they want to interact increases buy-in.
Stepney added that while organizations may say that they want people to bring their full selves to work, they may not recognize that this means asking people to bring their lived experiences, which result in different cultural sensitivities and preferences. She also encouraged leaders to leverage employee resource groups as a means of creating opportunities to connect, identify differences, and bring differing experiences forward.
Seamlessly integrating mental health support systems into the daily operations of a healthcare organization can feel like an enormous task, but the speakers encouraged leaders to start small. Van Brunt encouraged leaders to remember that these initiatives really need to start at the top with leaders that recognize the importance of mental wellness and the impact of cultural differences. Leaders also need to develop accountability. All team members need to understand that poor behavior will not be tolerated. He also stressed the importance of both formal and informal types of recognition.
Managers also need to be educated to recognize mental health challenges within their teams and have resources available for those who need them. He also encouraged leaders to use the onboarding process to ensure that employees were familiar with the company’s mental wellness resources.
When building strategies to facilitate collaboration between HR and other departments, Stepney encouraged leaders to begin with leadership accountability. Who will own the responsibility of driving the strategy tied to wellness? Once that has been established, collaboration can be more effective. “True collaboration will allow us to align with key performance indicators from a wellness perspective,” said Stepney. She also urged leaders to evaluate internal communication strategies to ensure that employees receive consistent messages about wellness initiatives regardless of the language spoken or the employee’s literacy level.
HealthStream can help your organization create safe, welcoming care for patients while developing a culture that supports mental wellness for staff. Visit HealthStream’s Health Equity and Belonging solutions to learn more. A strong culture starts from the top. Are you investing in your existing leaders and preparing future ones? HealthStream also has resources to help your organization support rising leaders.
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