For those holding leadership positions in a healthcare field that has been dramatically affected by external factors— supply chain issues, drastically increasing costs, and the sweeping consequences of the worldwide pandemic—  it’s more important than ever to recognize and nurture their basic mental health needs. This also includes the needs of the teams they lead and support in order to sustain the ability to manage patient wellbeing and prioritize the standard of care. 

The critical need for authentic self-care initiatives 

The statistics on burnout among healthcare professionals were alarming prior to the pandemic, and they’ve been staggering for the past three years, as practitioners in a historically resilient field have been pushed to the breaking point in an increasingly challenging environment. 

After several harrowing seasons, growing healthcare shortages, and an increased burden on remaining healthcare professionals, medical staffing turnover rates have continued to dramatically accelerate. Creating an environment of accessibility and authentic attention to self-care initiatives can go a long way toward meeting individual needs and maintaining the quality of care in today’s healthcare facilities.

A side-by-side comparison of the 2020 Mental Health Survey of healthcare workers to the same survey completed in the spring of 2022 shows that during the height of the pandemic, healthcare workers from all areas of the field reported similar mental health statistics as they do today. In some cases, they report even higher percentages.

  • 93% of respondents in 2020, compared to 91% in 2022, reported instances of stress
  • 86% in 2020, compared to 81% in 2022, reported increased anxiety
  • 76% in 2020, compared to  81% in 2022, identified feelings of burnout, showing an increase since the first year of the pandemic 
  • 77% in 2020, compared to 75% in 2022, reported feeling overwhelmed

These statistics not only contribute to high turnover rates, with over 50% of respondents considering a new career path and 25-30% of all healthcare workers considering early retirement, but they also contribute to mental and physical health concerns that directly impact patient care and employee wellbeing. These include:

  • Work-Related Dread
  • Fatigue
  • Physical Exhaustion 
  • Difficulty Falling Asleep
  • Increase in Headaches or Stomachaches 
  • Change in Appetite
  • Racing and Upsetting Thoughts 
  • Increase in the Likelihood to Smoke, Drink or Use Substances

Evaluating self-care accessibility 

For many professionals in the medical field, work-life balance is not something that they have historically prioritized or experienced. Healthcare is an inherently stressful field that calls on the most dedicated professionals. Yet, even the most qualified and devoted members of any medical staff need support. 

Successfully planning for increased retention and improved recruitment rates includes an internal culture that lives up to promises of finding solutions and support for mental health and wellness issues.

Corporate wellness programs are a great start, but if they are inconsistent or too complex, those who stand to benefit from them will be turned off. Leadership can make simple changes to support self-care focused on simple, daily tasks and internal check-ins to make sure their workforce’s simple fundamental needs are being met. Integrating workplace support like standing desks, or access to therapeutic resources, and engaging them in conversations about how to meet those basic needs can go a long way to set a tone about putting a value on overall wellbeing.

Self-care can be as simple and straightforward as being able to say yes to these questions:

  • Am I remembering to eat today, and is it food that will nourish my body?
  • Is there opportunity to get up and move, or take regular break breaks?
  • Am I able to have positive social interactions with others that fill me up?
  • Do I have the opportunity to connect with my friends and family?
  • Is there time in my day for mindfulness, rest, meditation, or journaling?
  • Am I sleeping enough?

When leadership recognizes the importance and makes space to implement changes that result in better self-care, they are showing how prepared and willing they are to adapt to the needs of their healthcare organization. At the same time, they are creating a foundation that gives legitimate support to their staff and sets a new standard that will appeal to incoming recruits. 
To learn more about how Polaris Placement can help your organization adapt and solidify its recruitment strategy, contact us today.