Healthcare never sleeps. Hospitals are open round the clock because people need treatment every hour of every day. It’s necessary, but for the people who work in healthcare, it can also be debilitating. Holidays, weekends, and dinner with the family are never guaranteed.
In a work environment that never stops, is it even possible to find balance? In this article, we look to answer that question by offering several suggestions that could improve life for healthcare workers all around the world.
Provide Mental Health Resources
Work-provided mental health resources can make it easier for employees to get through their shifts and give them better opportunities to enjoy their time off. One of your struggles as a working person could be that your job takes more time than you are paid for.
Let’s say you are a nurse working twelve-hour shifts (more on that later). You work days, thank goodness, but your shift begins at seven in the morning. You have a thirty-minute commute, and it takes another ten minutes to get settled from the moment you park your car.
To prepare for all of this, you wake up at five in the morning. You often work past your shift — medical emergencies don’t heed scheduling routines — and are rarely home before eight.
Then, you eat dinner, shower, and go to sleep to be ready to do it again the next day. Nurses all over the country work a schedule just like this one every day. Notice anything?
It doesn’t leave even a minute of free time. That can be overwhelming and even depressing. And when free time does come up, it’s often spent resting and recovering from the busyness of the work week.
Mental health and self-care resources can help give healthcare workers a healthy outlet for their stress, allowing them to bounce back from their shifts and enjoy their free time better.
Easier said than done, right? One of the biggest problems the healthcare industry currently faces is staffing shortages. For years experts have warned that more people were leaving healthcare than coming in. Then, in the spring of 2020, Covid took the world by storm, and suddenly there was a mass exodus of nurses and doctors.
Even three years after the start of the pandemic, the healthcare system continues to struggle. Not only is this a barrier to patient care, leaving many hospitals dangerously short of human resources. It also puts a significant burden on team members.
The fewer staff members there are, the harder the work becomes. Staff shortages also make it very difficult for hospitals to be flexible with their scheduling, creating further challenges for healthcare workers who would like to plan family gatherings or vacations.
Unfortunately, navigating the ongoing staffing shortage is easier said than done. Grants and scholarship opportunities are helping to cultivate a new generation of healthcare workers while hospitals continue to look for ways to hang onto the staff that they have. Still, for right now, the struggle continues.
Remember how we said that the average nurse works twelve-hour shifts? That really translates into a fifteen-hour workday when you factor in the commute and so on. That’s a big problem for more than one reason.
On the most obvious level, it’s hard to achieve a work-life balance when every waking minute of your day is devoted to your job.
However, it’s equally important to understand that humans aren’t built to work this way. The average person can maintain about four hours of sustained concentration. Outside that window, an emplyee can still do good work, but it becomes a matter of diminishing returns.
Well, this is an easy one! More frequent, shorter shifts.
That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, like so many things, it is easier said than done. There is a reason hospitals schedule nurses this way. Namely, it’s easier. Remember what we said earlier. Most hospitals are having a hard time keeping their floors staffed at all. It is easier to find people to work two long shifts than three short ones.
Despite the logistical challenges, however, finding a way to switch to shorter shifts would be enormously beneficial, both for nurses and their patients.
Better Peer Communication
Peer relationships provide both practical and emotional benefits. On the logistical side, knowing your coworkers makes it easier to trade shifts or plan your schedule. Having someone available to cover if you get scheduled to work on your child’s birthday can be an enormous morale booster.
From a purely emotional perspective, peer communication can also serve as an emotional release. Healthcare workers experience things that their friends and family members can’t understand. The work is hard. Sometimes, people die, and it makes you deeply sad. Other times, you see so many upsetting things that it can be hard to feel any emotion at all.
Having a list of people you can talk to about these experiences is tremendously beneficial. Fortunately, digital technology has made peer communication easier and even more accessible. Healthcare-specific communication apps now make it possible for healthcare workers to chat, trade shifts, and share experiences.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author: Sarah Daren has been a startup consultant in multiple industries, including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children.
Photo by Cedric Fauntleroy: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-woman-resting-on-the-couch-4270365/
May Is Mental Health Month 2023
"Look Around, Look Within"
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
Recommended for You
- Barriers to Recovery: Shame - November 27, 2023
- Navigating the Intersection of Psychology and Psychiatric Care for Mental Well-being - November 24, 2023
- Empowering Patients: How Doctors Promote Active Engagement in Mental Health Treatment - November 20, 2023