How to Support Your Health Care Staff in Challenging Times
If you’re a practice leader, you do everything you can to take care of patients. You work with their insurance companies and other providers to ensure that people get the care they need when they need it. But during challenging times, you are “double tasked” with looking after patients and more diligently caring for your staff.
Prior to challenging times, workers likely already felt intense work-related pressure. Forty percent of health care workers reported they felt challenged by “work overload.” The survey further found that workers struggle with lack of mentorship, limited training opportunities and feeling like there isn’t enough time for patients.
During a crisis, it’s critical to find creative ways to support health care workers and make them feel more appreciated and valued at the practice. Here are a few suggestions for how to support your health care staff during challenging times.
Give health care workers the ability to bank vacation time
Challenging times can require your staff to work more hours and longer days. During this period, they are under increased stress and feel overloaded. A staff member might have had a vacation planned before the crisis that has since been canceled. This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and disappointment, and that much-needed vacation is replaced with increased stress and fatigue — and in some cases, more work hours.
Allow employees to “bank” their vacation time and not lose it at the end of the year. Doing this allows them to take more time off when things slow down again. Additionally, they have something to look forward to, which could offset any potential burnout.
Consider offering workers who are logging extra time, additional vacation to use once the crisis has passed. This shows appreciation for their services, and gives them time in the future to rest and replenish after the period of difficulty has passed.
Consider implementing technology that makes their jobs easier
Many practices struggle with limited or not enough access to technology. About one-fourth (23%) of health care professionals reported they did not have sufficient access to technology. The best time to implement technology is before a crisis, but if you find yourself in the middle of one, there is still time to make your workers’ jobs easier. A few options that you may consider include:
- Streamline patient payments. Make your staffs’ job easier by streamlining payment options through payment automation. This allows patients to pay their bills using mobile applications or through email. By automating tasks and you’ll be able to free up staff time and help them focus on other priorities.
- Increase patient engagement. Improving patient engagement can help offset the stress on medical workers by reducing the number of questions and demands on their time. Patient engagement tools can reach out to people when bills are overdue and provide payment plan options. These tools can assist with providing billing details, so they can get questions answered through an online portal versus calling the office.
- Increase transparency through estimation tools. A large challenge for practices is billing transparency. A patient might expect his or her insurance company to pay more, but instead be faced with a large bill, resulting in the patient being upset and questions being posed to the office staff. Patient estimation tools enable medical staff to give more accurate, upfront estimates to patients so that fewer questions and less frustration result later in the process, and reduce the risk of outstanding balances.
As your staff gets overloaded with more and more tasks to complete, every moment matters. With ClearGage, you can automate time-consuming tasks and rely on them to handle all backend support. This will help free up more time and reduces the stress associated with a crisis or unexpected situation for team members.
Communicate openly and freely
Communication is important at every organization, but when things get stressful, it’s especially important for health care workers. Open communication is critical for creating a positive and supportive environment for staff. Health care workers see more tragedy than most people and need support and open communication to ensure they are taken care of.
For example, one study discovered that nurses who used effective interpersonal communication daily were able to support their own emotional needs, minimize stress and keep morale high with other staff members.
Consider holding weekly one-on-one meetings with each employee. This can be an informal meeting where you check in with staff and hear about what they need to feel balanced and happy at their job. Every employee is different, so understanding the specific areas in which they need support is critical. For example, an employee might be caring for an elderly parent and be worried about the need to put in extra time during the crisis. Without that ongoing communication, you might not have known about that concern, and as a result, you can look for ways to reduce stress in the job and support that employee.
Find opportunities to give recognition
Health care work is rewarding, but it can also feel thankless, especially during times when extra hours and long shifts are the norm. During a crisis, a person may work long hours, and when they return home still feel the stress from the workday. For example, during the time we are dealing with COVID-19, many health care workers worry about the potential risk of bringing the virus home to loved ones.
Days may be busy and overwhelming, but you can still find ways to recognize health care workers, talk with them to ease concerns, and find creative ways to recognize and appreciate their work. A few potential ideas include:
- Bring in breakfast or a treat. Health care workers are continuously helping others. Providing them with a special breakfast, lunch or other treat helps them feel recognized and keeps them going. Write a thank-you note and place it in a common area so people can feel the appreciation.
- Give employees thank-you cards. People don’t receive cards as frequently as they have in the past, and a heartfelt card expressing your appreciation for being dedicated to the job can go a long way in uplifting health care workers.
- Celebrate an employee who keeps everyone inspired. Is there someone on your team who motivates and uplifts the employees around them? Is it someone who keeps things together and makes sure that everyone else does their job better? Consider recognizing that employee in front of co-workers for a job well done and providing other staff members the opportunity to say thank you.
- Small tokens of appreciation. A small gift can go a long way. A gift card for a cup of coffee, a lunch or other special perk that will be meaningful to the employee is valuable in supporting and uplifting your employees.
Consider making recognition an ongoing part of your week. Even during busy times, keeping recognition at the forefront can uplift your practice and keep people motivated.
Help medical staff with shifting childcare needs
Childcare needs can be a major concern during challenging times. For example, during COVID-19 schools have shut down and many workers have struggled with limited childcare options. Even with options for childcare available, parents who are used to having children in school full time face additional costs.
Find ways to support your employees’ childcare needs. Consider offering a small stipend to offset the cost, and keep communication open about how those needs are affecting health care workers.
Additionally, many health care workers are of the “sandwich generation” and so they have the responsibility of caring for both their children and aging parents. These health care workers face additional challenges and stressors finding care and support for their loved ones. Work with staff to find ways to support their needs and provide ongoing communication about any challenges that people face.
Moving into the future with greater support
A crisis creates a stressful time for everyone, including patients and employees. However, by implementing strategies and tools designed to support health care workers and make their jobs easier, you can reduce stress and serve patients with greater ease.
Additionally, you can open up lines of communication and help people express their concerns, their needs and how you can best help them. Doing this allows your staff to be less stressed, and when staff are less overwhelmed, they are in a better position to concentrate on serving patients.