As we move away from the pandemic crisis into a time of healing and rebuilding, many nurses ask, “what can we do at this time to further build our own resilience?”
That question should not be how can nurses
can further build their resilience, but instead, how healthcare organizations can collaborate more efficiently with their workforce to foster resiliency and promote the wellbeing of their staff. Both the healthcare organization and the workforce need to work together to be part of this solution. But what are the necessary steps that must be taken?
Recognize that the workforce as the most valuable commodity in a healthcare organization. Without a workforce, there will be no one to care for the people who need help the most—your patients. Health care leaders must be visible and up on the units to see, hear and talk to their staff, and then determine if the culture is one of support or in need of transformation. Social workers and mental health providers must also be available to identify the silent issues like burnout and moral distress, and then implement plans to help the individuals experiencing the distress, as well as for all other staff on that unit.
Employee assistance programs must also be easy to access and utilize, or they are of no help to anyone. Too many times, the solutions we put in place hinder progress instead of helping it, by over-complicating procedures.
The basic needs of staff must be regularly provided for. Things like healthy food options and accessibility to healthy food, along with adequate time to break for meals or other personal needs is essential. Documentation burden is also a big issue for many nurses. You can start addressing this by having nursing represented on committees where documentation and additions to the electronic health record are being discussed.
And if staff are struggling financially or with family care responsibility burdens, recommendations for family care and financial counseling can, and should be part of the employee assistance resources. But most importantly, all individuals must be encouraged to recognize if and when they need help, and then assured that it’s OK to ask for it.
Institute agile, flexible care models. This should be done to ensure staffing is based on severity of illness/patient acuity, and not just on the number of patients. Primary nursing models are most often used during non-crisis times while team models are best utilized during crisis. However, if an organization has insufficient staffing, the team model of care is a good stop gap measure until the staffing issue is addressed.
Cross-training nurses on similar units (such as Progressive Care and Critical Care) can help increase the ability to move staff around where and when they are needed quickly. Remember that 12-hour shifts might not work for everyone, so it’s best to consider shorter shifts to add flexibility to scheduling.
Invest in recruitment, orientation, and retention strategies to promote workforce fit. Hire the best candidates not only for the job, but for the institution, and keep the talent where it belongs – as a valued part of the institutions’ current workforce. That means taking a serious look at the type of candidates you hire. While skill and experience are important, don’t forget that attitude and the ability to develop innovative solutions to solve a patient’s problem, is equally important.
Develop and invest in preceptors as well as current staff, so they can work together to develop and invest in the nurses who are newest to the profession. Support career and professional development by instituting career ladders and by providing continuing professional development educational activities, so your staff doesn’t have to look elsewhere for it.
Without a doubt, the workforce is a healthcare system’s most valuable asset. Resilience in the workforce is key to ensuring its health and staff wellbeing in order to optimize patient outcomes. However, commitment to improving the workforce well-being must be a collaborative approach between the organization and the individual. Together we can then make the necessary changes that will foster resiliency, improve workforce agility, and drive quality patient outcomes, now and into the future.