By Lisa M. Wickens-Alteri, Founder & President of Capital Health Consulting, LLC
“COVID fatigue” is a coined phrase we can all relate to, one that is real and almost everyone is suffering from it in varying degrees. Some say our society has become numb to COVID, but the truth is everyone is feeling the worry of getting sick, the sadness of watching others get sick or die or losing their jobs. While our society deals with all of these stressors, we remain separated and socially isolated from our family, friends, and loved ones. People aren’t numb, they are emotionally exhausted.
See this article featured in Prime Source Healthcare Solution's December 2020 Newsletter!
For those of us working in and with Long Term Care providers, the fatigue feels more severe. Why? Because since the start of the pandemic the lives lost in nursing homes were residents that lived and were cared for months to years; relationships lost and grieved. Then adding to the anxiety and the litany of stressors, long term healthcare workers and homes were collectively, publicly ridiculed in the media and by government agencies.
Nine months later we are looking right into the face of the enemy coming back at us, but now we are weaker. Healthcare workers are exhausted going into the second wave and many have left the profession. Today there are less staff willing to work 16-hour days, less volunteers stepping up to assist in the care of the sick, because the virus is across the US.
Unlike other emergencies, most time-limited, this emergency has taken up space in our daily lives. We have had little opportunity to rejuvenate from the compilation of stressors the pandemic has caused. Even though the rates of infection decreased during the summer months in New York, they increased in Florida and other parts of the country, delaying family gatherings, vacations and celebrations, removing any hopes for the resumption of normalcy during the warm weather months.
The novel virus has caused chaos in our worlds, but COVID fatigue puts further risk on healthcare. It puts our ‘superheroes’ at risk; potentially causing them to become lax in the strict implementation of infection prevention protocols. And while the outpouring of public gratitude and support for healthcare professionals has been widely and visibly appreciated across social media, they are human. They have experienced the same stressors we all have, without reprieve.
So, as we go to the next chapter of the pandemic, what can be done to ‘re-charge’ our heroes?
Renovate your Schedules:
Make time to listen to your staff and listen to their ideas.
Schedule special activities that are either entertaining or relaxing for your staff, on a regular basis. Incorporate these activities into the daily grind without becoming monotonous. Being able to laugh and unwind, even for a few moments is essential for rejuvenation.
Share With One Another: One, two or three days a week one employee will share their ‘special gifts’, which can be their music, their artistic abilities, a hobby. The employee can display their hobby or artwork, they can share their music singing live for each shift or they can be recorded.
Reach out to local salons or spas that might consider partnering and providing healthcare works with a discounted haircut, blow out, nail treatment or massage.
Comfort = food. Arrange for a vendor to provide a new ‘treat’ for staff and change it up. New flavored coffee machine in the facility for a specific amount of time (it is free, you only pay for the product used) or Thankful Thursdays with Bagels.
Spend a few minutes writing a personalized “thank you” note to your employees.
Host an Employee Support Group led by Social Work or through your facility Health Plan. Telehealth has become more flexible, connect your staff with possible services they can tap into during their day.
Encourage employees to care for themselves.
Healthcare workers care for their patients, their families and everyone around them; during these unprecedented times remind the ‘Superheroes’ to care for themselves. More than ever, we need to take care of ourselves and support one another.