During a pandemic, increased stress and fear go hand-in-hand. These heightened emotions can be especially difficult for healthcare providers on the front lines. Fortunately, there are ways to support the mental health of providers during these times. In this post, we’ve laid out four steps to launch provider engagement that supports self-care and prevents burnout.

Step 1: Be Mindful of Mental Health

A basic step in supporting providers’ mental health is simply having awareness of the issue. Before the pandemic, healthcare providers already experienced significant burnout. And this phenomenon could easily be exaggerated by the trauma of treating coronavirus patients or simply working in an environment with an elevated risk of infection.

According to the CDC, the heightened emotions surrounding COVID-19 may cause mental health symptoms, such as:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping
  • Excessive worry about loved ones and self
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exacerbation of the symptoms of an existing mental or physical health condition
  • Increased use of alcohol and other substances

Don’t assume that the leaders at your hospital or clinic are already thinking about this issue. Take action to put provider mental health on management’s radar, for example through meeting agendas or internal communications.

Step 2: Offer Resources for Self-Care

Making self-care resources available to essential healthcare workers is a great way to foster healthy coping skills and stress reduction. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD says it’s important to note the unique barriers that healthcare providers face in accessing support:

“A strong service-orientation, a lack of time, difficulties in acknowledging or recognizing their own needs, stigma, and fear of being removed from their duties during a crisis may prevent staff from requesting support if they are experiencing stress reactions. Given this, employers should be proactive in encouraging supportive care in an atmosphere free of stigma, coercion, and fear of negative consequences.”

Healthcare businesses can support self-care by:

  • Implementing mandatory breaks throughout the day
  • Avoiding the isolation of staff from other patients and coworkers for extended periods of time
  • Facilitating virtual support groups
  • Stocking vending machines and cafeterias with healthy options

Step 3: Actively Engage Providers

While self-care is a decision made by an individual, businesses can encourage such practices via provider engagement. There are a variety of ways to conduct provider engagement activities. You can use your business’ traditional meeting structure to check in one-on-one, or you can use a digital communication tool, like Calibrater, that has built-in dashboard and texting options.

Providers on the front lines are trying to stay informed, prepared, and stable—all while being of aid to their patients. Provider engagement is the glue that holds all these things together. When provider engagement is optimized, everyone is in the loop, and patients and staff alike can feel a sense of solidarity and support.

Healthcare businesses can nurture provider’s sense of stability by implementing tools and practices for providers to communicate effectively with colleagues, staff, and patients at all times. One way that Calibrater is helping with provider engagement during COVID-19 is the introduction of two new features: mass-texting and two-way provider texting.

Texting cuts through the noise of pandemic communications. Mass texting ensures that providers receive important updates. And two-way texting takes it to the next level, allowing providers to respond and ask questions, which can help reduce stress.

Whatever tool you use, great topics for provider engagement include:

  • When checking in, remind providers about directives to pace themselves throughout the day—ask them if they are struggling to follow this directive, and help develop a solution. Remind them to avoid taking on so much that they compromise their own health and well-being.
  • Exercise is a great way to maintain mental health during times of stress or crisis. Provider engagement can be used to promote or even facilitate exercise during breaks.
  • Encourage providers to monitor their own mental health symptoms, and offer resources for treatment. For example, you could remind employees about the mental health coverage in their insurance policy or give them the link to their employee assistance program.
  • Boost morale by sharing positive patient feedback. Mine your patient feedback tool for the kind of comments that show providers the importance of their work and the great impact they’re having in people’s lives.

Step 4: Stay Prepared

When the lockdowns were first ordered, your healthcare business put new safety measures into place. As businesses start to reopen and non-essential healthcare services resume, it’s important to uphold these safety measures. And it’s not only about reducing transmission. Visibly maintaining efforts to prevent spread may help reduce the stress and anxiety of essential healthcare workers.

It’s also important to update providers with the latest scientific information. The VA’s National Center for PTSD says such updates should help providers make decisions about when to tell patients to isolate, how to use personal protective equipment, and how to triage patients during a surge. Sharing these resources through training can help teams feel more supported, connected, and prepared.

Calibrater is helping healthcare businesses improve patient satisfaction and provider engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic, but provider engagement is always at the top of our minds. For more information on provider engagement, download our whitepaper.

Improve Provider Engagement

We conducted a series of interviews with our customers in various operational and clinical roles to gain a deeper understanding of how successful organizations approach provider engagement in order to learn what works and what doesn’t.