Workforce Health + Benefits

3 Ways to Prioritize and Improve Healthcare Worker Well-Being

Focusing on patient care and quality of service is a constant point of emphasis within healthcare organizations. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement identified the “Triple Aim,” or overarching goals that all healthcare organizations should strive towards:

  • Improving the patient experience
  • Improving population health outcomes 
  • Reducing healthcare costs

Through these efforts and the direct impact COVID-19 has had on healthcare workers, many healthcare organizations have realized that the Triple Aim is unattainable without a strong, resilient and productive workforce. 

So, how can HR teams and managers of healthcare organizations better support and improve the health and well-being of their provider workforce? We interviewed Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic, to get his take. 

Why is it important for caregivers to prioritize their health and well-being?

Healthcare workers who constantly provide high-quality care can sometimes leave themselves out of the well-being equation. 

With most of their attention on patients, healthcare workers often find themselves with limited means to focus on their own physical and mental health. 

This is concerning since the well-being of healthcare providers drastically affects the healthcare organization’s ability to provide the highest quality clinical care to their patients. 

Dr. Roizen highlighted this perspective by identifying five important outcomes that occur when healthcare providers are at their best, both physically and mentally:

  1. They have the energy to be effective in their work.
  2. They become a role model for their patients.
  3. They become a role model in their community and for their families.
  4. They have the energy to fulfill other passions in life.

Additionally, a healthier workforce also means lower healthcare costs for the organization by avoiding chronic disease among staff, lower hospital admissions, and shorter recovery times for illness and injuries.

What is negatively impacting healthcare workers' health and well-being today?

A few specific personal and work-related stressors have been negatively affecting the well-being of healthcare workers for some time – and some that presented themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These include:

  • Heavy or increased workload or working too many hours.
  • Burnout.
  • Being too tired when they get home to cook or do chores.
  • Lack of quality time with partner(s) or children.
  • Being present as a parent, childcare or homeschooling.
  • Uncertainty about when their work will return to normal.
  • Concern of getting sick or spreading COVID-19 to children or other family members.
  • Loneliness.
  • Financial stress.

It’s no coincidence these stressors coincide with increased feelings of stress, anxiety, frustration, emotional and physical exhaustion, trouble with sleep, changes in appetite (overeating or undereating), and even physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches.

How can healthcare organizations help their employees prioritize their health and well-being?

Like most crises, the pandemic resulted in a predictable range of distress reactions and potential mental health issues among front-line workers like those in healthcare. 

Understanding how to help healthcare providers focus more on their health is essential to improve patient outcomes, reduce turnover and increase morale. 

1. Create opportunities for employees to close gaps in care and meet with their primary care doctor.

A recent JAMA article confirmed that in 2020, 31-42% of adults reported avoiding or delaying medical care for things like medical and dental check-ups, treatment for ongoing conditions, diagnostic or medical screening tests, and surgical procedures. Furthermore, among those reporting delayed care, 57% of them reported negative health consequences.

Dr. Beri Ridgeway, Cleveland Clinic’s Chief of Staff, wrote about the issue of delayed care and mentioned even doctors have deferred their own care or ignored existing health conditions. But she has a call to action: “Now is the time for you to take inventory of your own health, and schedule the appointments you need to take care of yourself. Prioritizing your own health will ensure that you can provide quality care as we move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Help employees get back on track by using your wellness program to prioritize a visit with a primary care doctor and getting up to date on age/gender preventive care screenings. Then, consider taking it a step further by rewarding employees for completing one high-priority goal recommended by their physician.

The inclusion of these benefits in your workplace wellness program can help individuals identify abnormalities or risks early on, monitor and manage existing conditions, and ultimately reduce costs for both the worker and the employer. 

2. Offer evidence-based health coaching to help employees set and stick to their health goals, no matter when their shifts are.

Many people—especially in the healthcare industry—know that preventive care, a quality diet and adequate exercise will keep their health in check. But knowledge and willpower aren’t always enough to follow through with consistency. Plus, lack of sleep and unmanaged stress can also become barriers to eating healthy and getting enough exercise.

No matter what health goal they’re working on, temptations and distractions are everywhere, and the truth is humans don’t have an endless supply of willpower. However, a dedicated health coach can help them find motivation, set realistic goals, build new skills, and remove barriers to living a healthier lifestyle. 

Because your organization has employees who work around the clock, consider leveraging an asynchronous coaching program like Cleveland Clinic Coaching that can allow employees to message their coach at times that work best for them. That way, getting help and accountability to improve their health doesn’t come at the expense of their personal or work responsibilities.

3. Provide mindfulness and stress management training to help healthcare workers prevent burnout and promote mental well-being.

Early on in Cleveland Clinic’s employee wellness journey, Dr. Roizen’s research and analysis of their program indicated that focusing on your health is nearly impossible for individuals experiencing chronic stress. Therefore, stress management quickly became a new care objective for Cleveland Clinic.

Your workplace wellness program is the perfect place to insert interventions that help individuals reduce and manage their stress, like Cleveland Clinic’s Stress Free Now for Healers program.

Designed in partnership with doctors and nurses at Cleveland Clinic, the program features lessons directly applicable to healthcare work environments and responsibilities.

You may also consider creating peer support groups within the organization to help workers cope more positively with personal stressors and work demands.

You can help employees improve and maintain their health and close gaps in care.

It’s all about meeting your people where they are.

At Bravo, we never view employee health and wellness as one-size-fits-all. Instead, through our accessible and engaging employee wellness programs, your organization can measurably improve employee health, close gaps in care, and increase health benefits utilization. 

We can also help you engage employees who are typically hard to reach, like nurses, doctors, and support staff working around the clock.

Take a look at what makes a Bravo wellness program unique, and together, we can create a thriving and sustainable culture of health and well-being within your employee population.  

Learn About Bravo Wellness Programs → 

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