Nobody can dispute that healthcare professionals are much-valued members of our community. Unfortunately, many people that work in healthcare often find themselves burnt out by the intense pressure of their jobs.
Nobody wants to get advice or care from a doctor or nurse who is too stressed and exhausted to concentrate appropriately. In this article, we look at how to increase resilience in healthcare professionals.
Why Healthcare Workers Are Burning Out
Burnout has been defined as ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, it is characterised by three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from or cynicism about one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
Burnout is rife among healthcare workers. The high-stakes and demanding nature of working in healthcare can take a significant toll on mental health.
Healthcare professionals routinely have to deal with the following:
- Difficult or distraught patients and relatives
- Long hours
- Low rates of pay
- Huge workloads
- Frantic work pace
Rates of burnout in NHS workers increased from 36.8% in 2016 to 40.3% in 2019. And then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
The Impact of COVID-19 on UK Healthcare Professionals
COVID-19 had a disastrous effect on the mental health of UK healthcare workers. COVID-19 increased the burnout rate of healthcare workers up to 3.3 times more than that of non-healthcare professionals, according to data compiled by the Queen Mary University of London. What’s worrying about this report is that it showed the burnout rate was increasing among healthcare professionals, despite the easing of the pandemic.
Senior Clinical Lecturer Dr Ajay Gupta who helped author the study, has said that the rates of burnout will lead to increased staffing shortages and decreased retention rates for the NHS. Dr Gupta also pointed out that the continuing high burnout rate may lead to healthcare workers developing severe physical and mental health problems.
Other findings and reports are just as alarming. Healthcare workers have been shown to have a high risk of suicide. Some 41% of doctors reported elevated levels of depression and anxiety and increased rates of fatigue and exhaustion in 2021. And the problems are ongoing.
The Ongoing Mental Health Crisis in UK Healthcare
GPs in the UK are now more likely to cut back on the number of patients they see and have low levels of job satisfaction. Junior doctors in the UK have gone so far as to instigate strike action because of low pay and poor conditions. A recent nurses’ strike over pay rates was ended prematurely due to court action from the government.
Many healthcare professionals have left the industry and replacements haven’t been found. Currently, the NHS operates with approximately 154,000 fewer full-time staff than it needs. Something must be done to help healthcare workers build resilience to protect their mental health and continue their careers.
The Importance of Resilience in Health and Social Care
Psychologists have defined resilience as a ‘dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity.’ Increasing resilience levels gives healthcare workers the skills they need to deal with the high levels of occupational stress they experience.
Mental health experts have recommended that healthcare organisations incorporate resilience-building techniques into mental health programs for staff. More resilient healthcare professionals can better manage negative emotions and maintain composure in stressful situations.
Being more resilient enables healthcare workers to communicate effectively with team members and patients. Healthcare workers who practice resilience building find they have enhanced empathy and compassion and can overcome adversity more quickly.
Other benefits of increasing resilience in healthcare professionals include:
- Better rates of job satisfaction
- An increased ability to learn from past mistakes
- Decreased feelings of hopelessness, depression and anxiety
- Enhanced feelings of confidence
- Better self-management
- Increased ability to plan and coordinate with colleagues
Ways to Increase Resilience in Healthcare Professionals
Managers, supervisors and frontline employees must collectively build resilience and create a supportive environment at work where everyone feels valued. A combination of efforts is required at both the organisational and individual levels to build resilience.
Resilience Building Techniques for Individuals
Suppose you are a healthcare worker who has been feeling the strain. In that case, you can boost your resilience by concentrating on simple methods and life changes. Rev up your resilience by:
- Practising relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or meditation
- Developing better time-management skills
- Devoting time to self-care
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating a balanced diet
- Getting enough rest and sleep
- Reaching out to friends and co-workers for support
- Setting achievable goals
- Adopting a more optimistic viewpoint
- Learning problem-solving and critical-thinking techniques
- Establishing and maintaining firm work/life boundaries
- Seeking advice from a mental health professional
Resilience Building at the Organisational Level
Healthcare organisations, managers and supervisors also need to put in some work to help their teams cope with the pressure. Business leaders can act to build resilience among their teams by:
- Ensuring that staff levels are adequate
- Focusing on building team morale
- Providing clear leadership
- Encouraging mental health awareness in the workplace
- Disturbing workloads fairly
- Making sure employees are allowed sufficient leave when requested
- Creating open and confidential communication channels
- Arranging regular meetings with staff to discuss issues
- Providing mental health support programs
- Monitoring the mental health of employees
- Providing access to mental health resilience training
Does Your Employer Have to Provide Resilience-Building Training?
As we’ve seen, resilience building can decrease rates of burnout, increase job satisfaction, and give people the skills to perform more effectively. Strictly speaking, providing access to mental health resilience-building training isn’t a legal requirement. But the benefits of giving resilience-building training far outweigh the potential and proven consequences.
Employers should note that they are legally obliged to ensure their staff have a safe working environment. This obligation means employers must take appropriate steps to safeguard employees’ physical and mental health. The responsibilities of employers are enshrined in law by the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974).
If your organisation is found to have breached the Act, then it could face unlimited fines and criminal charges. Is it worth the risk?
How to Access Resilience Building Training
Improving resilience in healthcare organisations is a win-win for management, staff, and patients. Ultimately, we’ll all benefit from having more relaxed, competent and confident healthcare providers.
Our Mental Health Resilience training is a great way to give your team the support they need. You and your team can learn crucial skills for coping with stress and managing your mental health.