How hospitals can help their frontline workers to deal with stress

How hospitals can help their frontline workers to deal with stress

Even before the pandemic, levels of stress and burnout in healthcare workers were on the increased side. Fifteen percent of nurses reported feelings of burnout in a 2019 research. Burnout forms a major inclusive part of the leading patient safety and quality concerns among healthcare organizations, as it can reduce work performance and elevate the risk of errors.


Although we can’t remove stress in the healthcare setting, changes in the environment may help elevate employee resilience. Mindfulness micro-practices—such as micro-breaks and a lot of respite spaces in which to take them—can mitigate stress. 


Meanwhile, embarking on resilience practices in the immediate setting where they are needed most could enforce the impact of these practices. As the coronavirus progresses, and we look forward to new pandemics ahead of us, how can we work on the experience now and for future happenings? We recommend the following design solutions for hospitals and other healthcare facilities.


Rethink The Break Room


Embarking on breaks can help increase productivity and prevent burnout, yet healthcare workers may be reluctant to take them, especially in times of problem. We need to make sure that when a break does happen, the environment is optimized for caregiver decompression, support, and restoration.


One method is to change the break room into an oasis of respite, where employees can relax and rethink. The first is to adopt the power of nature to increase resilience and cognition. 


Research indicates that surrounding ourselves with real or simulated green plants can reduce our physiological stress response, such as blood pressure and heart rate. Break rooms with windows that face gardens, trees, and other green spaces can take the opportunity of these critical nature benefits. Artwork or wall graphics of a forest, rolling countryside, or green lawn, can assist too, as can the introduction of birdsongs and other natural sounds.


Adjust and perfect Underutilized Corridor Spaces


Micro-break spaces along typical pathways, such as corridors and recess may bring down stress and increase wellness. For instance, underutilized areas along a nurse’s route or a physician’s daily rounds can change into a variety of calming alcoves for a moment’s rest. 


These spaces could be cut across soft-cushioned chairs with footstools and seating booths for solo rest or a quiet place to call family. Besides, the corridor ends with a comfortable couch, and views to the outdoors can offer a peaceful retreat, and with the addition of a whiteboard, can also allow staff to informally get in touch and share ideas.


Give Room To Areas For Physical Exercise


Movement and physical fitness — especially high-intensity aerobic exercise — gives a host of short-term and long-term benefits, such as increasing memory, a boost in mood, improved cognitive function, and better quality of life. Walks in nature and the opinion of green plants can assist to reset the dangerous effects of sustained stress. Outdoor gardens can give exercise and the restorative effects of nature.


Offer Immersive Respite Pods 


It is a matter of necessity to bring respite to those who need it most, from ICU nurses to emergency unit physicians to support staff. One method under development is called the mobile respite pod. 


This indoor modular system can provide a customizable and sensory experience to improve rest, relaxation, and meditation. Getting the presence of seating, adjustable lighting, calming sounds, and green forest or ocean imagery may help healthcare workers recharge in their preferred way. 


Meanwhile, UV lights used before and after each use could give a balanced cleaning process. Packaged to be simple to gather and break down on-site, these pods, given in various sizes, could be installed in presently underutilized areas like waiting rooms or lobbies, or even outside in plazas or near gardens.


 Reduce Stress At The Bedside


Decreasing healthcare worker stress is not restricted to staff areas. Many of the suitable opportunities are right next to the patients. We have long noted that high noise levels and constant equipment alarms in inpatient areas are anxiety-producing for patients, families, and healthcare workers’ communication, wellbeing, and performance. 


Alarm fatigue is proven to reduce focus and memory, raise cortisol levels, reduce concentration, and even elevate negative immune system feedback. 


Research indicates background noise above 45 decibels can lead to adverse effects, and many healthcare settings are much more popular than that. Simple environmental methods like providing white noise, employing sound-absorbing materials, and using smoother cartwheels are all required.


Think of The Return On Investment


Health center systems presently face extraordinarily tight financial challenges, so every way forward needs to be carefully cross-checked in terms of costs and benefits. While some of the proposals above would have a very little cost impact, others (like the respite pods) would require more investment. It is pertinent to note, however, that the cost of not responding to provider stress is perhaps the biggest of all.


In the previous year—even before the COVID outbreak—healthcare organizations on average faced 17.8% staff turnover. This came at a huge expense, averaging more than $60,000 for replacing a registered nurse and $500,000 for replacing a physician. 


Society has rightly regarded healthcare workers as heroes, who are leaving no stone unturned to save others. We hope that this new-found societal recognition will not be misused, but will instead yield unprecedented advocacy and investment in the emotional safety and well-being of our nation’s streamlined front line staff.

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