It is important to keep in mind that while we are are all in this together, each person has unique life circumstances that may cause more or less acute concern. For example, we cannot know who has vulnerable family members who may be at greater risk, or who already suffers from anxiety and experiences the uncertainty and fear more acutely.
Practicing self-compassion during this time is also important. Be honest about how you’re truly feeling, and remember that if you’re not feeling well, you’re not only being kind to yourself by staying home, but you’re protecting those you work with as well.
Ways to Practice Compassionate Leadership
Look: Take time to check-in with your team. Look for the unsaid. How are people’s energy levels?
Listen: Practice mindful listening. Give your team space to be open and honest about how they feel, both mentally and physically.
Feel: Everyone is going to be feeling a range of different emotions. Taking the time to acknowledge how someone else is truly feeling empowers us to respond with kindness.
Respond: In times of high stress, it’s easy to let frustrations get in the way of skillful communication. Pause and give yourself space to respond in a skillful and kind way.
Leading with compassion and empathy is critical now more than ever.
Grief & Loss
The National Academy of Medicine Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience offers this collection of resources that highlight strategies and tools that health care leaders and workers can use across practice settings to take action toward decreasing burnout and improving clinician well-being.
Resources are organized into six essential elements, based on Organizational Evidence-Based and Promising Best Practices for Clinician Well-Being.
Addressing health worker burnout is about more than health. It’s about reflecting the deeper values that we aspire to as a society—values that guide us to look out for one another and to support those who are seeking to do the same. Health workers have had our backs during the most difficult moments of the pandemic. It’s time for us to have theirs.
– Dr Vivek Murthy
every day to see how you’re doing.
Once you find a buddy on your team, in your department, or anywhere within your organization – decide on the best way to check in daily: where, when, and how. It might be on a walk break, at lunch, or after a daily huddle. It would preferably be face-to-face, but can also be a virtual chat, email or phone call. You don’t have to be best friends – just partner up and make a commitment.
It may help to have questions you talk through each day, like:
- What’s been the best/worst part of your day?
- What something you are looking forward to?
- What’s your biggest stress this week?
- What’s your best coping skill?
- What’s the best part of your job?
Remember, not everyone reacts to stress in the same way. As a buddy, be sensitive to differences in culture and perspective. You can help by identifying and advising on immediate needs, discussing an action plan, and acting to address their needs.
- Be a listener to your buddy.
- Actively communicate with your buddy to understand his/her perspective.
- Reach out to a buddy who may be struggling.
- Offer help with practical needs or finding services.
- Get help if you have reason to believe your buddy may be a threat to themselves or to others.
- Offer clinical diagnosis or treatment.
- Pass judgment on people or decisions.
- Pry or demand that a buddy discuss problems.
If you are concerned about your buddy:
It may be uncomfortable, but speaking up when you are concerned for your buddy can make all the difference. If you are unsure what to do or need more help, please speak with your team leader or supervisor. Here’s some questions that may help the conversation with your buddy:
- You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. What is troubling you?
- I am concerned about you. Is there anything I can do to help?
- I am concerned about your safety. Have you thought about harming yourself?
- Stay with your buddy.
- Help your buddy to connect with your EAP or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
- Involve someone else! Being there for someone who is struggling can often be too much for one person. Work with your buddy to involve someone else they trust, so they can get the support and help they need.
- This may be a supervisor, a Human Resources person, or their emergency contact.
- If you are concerned that your buddy may harm themselves, call 911.
Supporting Healthcare Professionals in Times of Disaster: Reflections on “At-Risk Employees”
Why is this pandemic so stressful?
What seems to have made the COVID-19 pandemic especially stressful is that we have experienced this collision of disasters. (See Figure 1) This complexity of issues is leading to increased mental health and substance use concerns.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, people are also finding that the rituals we are accustomed to carrying out in stressful times either won’t work, are prohibited by physical distancing ordinances, or could literally pose a threat to physical health.”
Who is "at risk" and when can we identify it?
Nobody is immune to distress. Considering the impact of the pandemic on our field of healthcare, we should consider all staff to be at risk, and take steps to assess and identify those who need increased support and/or intervention. We can identify risk at multiple checkpoints:
- During academic training
- In the recruitment and selection process
- During on-the-job training
- During disaster response
- In post-event operational debriefings
- In day to day conversations
“Historically, response to extremes of stress and trauma to which personnel can be exposed during pandemics and other disasters (as shown in Figure 1) manifest predominantly as distress reactions and health risk behaviors with some people developing psychiatric disorders.
Distress reactions and risky health behaviors typically emerge early on, whereas psychiatric disorders take weeks, months or longer to manifest.”
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