Working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic has its risks. Healthcare professionals in high numbers are suffering from a new hardship known as “pandemic fatigue.”
Pandemic fatigue occurs in workers who are taking care of patients, trying to maintain their own health and support their families, all while risking the occupational hazard of close family members being exposed to COVID-19. The combination of these fears, frustrations and feelings of helplessness can lead to pandemic fatigue.
How do healthcare professionals cope with these new fears and frustrations? Acknowledging and relieving pandemic fatigue will help lessen the likelihood of fatigue resulting in burnout and workers leaving the industry altogether.
Health Should Be A Priority
Self-care is essential. Healthcare workers cannot be successful at their jobs if their own health is suffering. However, admitting to others that pandemic fatigue has set in can be difficult. Use these tips on prioritizing clinician wellness within your organization. Prioritizing the health of workers starts at the top. Organizations should provide resources and recommendations to help healthcare workers cope and maintain a healthy mental state.
- Try to get eight hours of sleep at night
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a balanced diet
- Meditate or listen to music when feeling overwhelmed
Create Group Activities
Staying connected will help avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness. Group activities with professionals who can relate to job stressors will help build relationships and a sense of community. Implementing a routine of these activities with all staff members will address emotional struggles and strengthen loyalty to the organization. Since employees already interact daily, social distancing isn’t necessary for these activities, but masks are still recommended.
- Go for a hike or nature walk
- Set up recurring virtual hangouts or happy hours
- Write letters or send cards to people
- Host a bonfire night or park lunch
- Implement a daily 15-minute yoga break
Schedule Patient Visits with the Caregiver’s Health in Mind
Create a clinician schedule that fulfills the ethical commitment to patients but preserves the safety of healthcare workers. COVID-19 has created extreme scheduling difficulties for clinicians, with at-risk clinicians and family caregivers dropping shifts and visits and placing a larger load on those willing to work.
If there’s a shortage of clinicians, how do organizations take care of patients without overwhelming workers?
- One article suggests using the infective principle to redistribute working schedules and help curb the spread of the virus.
- Use a staffing app that finds qualified clinicians near the visit site.
- Many license guidelines have been temporarily altered, enabling retired or inactive clinicians, clinicians with encumbered licenses and nursing students to act as supplementary staff.
Working during a pandemic without a clear end date is difficult for most, but healthcare workers have the added stresses of risking contagion and managing an overloaded work schedule. Making these changes to prioritize the health of staff members is necessary to ensure the organization doesn’t succumb to its own pandemic fatigue.