In this article, recommendations from previous health crises of effective communication and support strategies to promote resilience are offered to improve the mental health of health care workers.
Health care providers and staff members may experience declining mental health when caring for COVID-19 patients, especially if working environments are not supportive. To reduce the potential for distress and burnout, which could lead to posttraumatic stress disorder or other chronic conditions, three crisis management strategies are propsosed for responding to this pandemic:
- Provide leadership focused on resilience
- Effective crisis communication provides a clear, realistic plan; takes decisive action; and facilitates frequent, open communication.
- Structure crisis communications to provide information and empowerment
- Leadership should provide up-to-date information, what is being done to protect health care workers, and steps to take if exposed.
- Create a continuum of staff support within the organization
- Leaders should normalize mental health concerns, advocate for personal wellness, and identify support resources.
Previous health care crises have demonstrated the value in creating peer support teams to provide psychological first aid and emotional support for health care workers. Feeling supported leads to greater resiliency.
Because the United States is still in the early phase of this pandemic, where health care response is in the heroic phase, now is the time to plan for a longer, disillusionment phase when health care workers’ emotional needs will be more present and need attention.