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How to improve healthcare staff's well-being - strategy no.2

In our first article on this topic, we looked at some causes of stress and burn out amongst healthcare facilities' staff. We also identified how passive strategies can be implemented to remove the presence of stressors and at the same time enhance the presence of calming elements within their physical working environment.

Our first strategy is based on the effects and benefits our mother Nature has on human well-being.

Link to 1st strategy article

In this article we would like to further develop how important team building and places of respite are.


Reconnect with the team in a place of respite

Most of us know the benefits of team building retreats on productivity and stress reduction. Those types of events can indeed help to improve communication techniques and to break down barriers with colleagues. Talking openly with peers increases awareness of problems and helps coming up with solutions and developing strategies further easing piece of mind. Whilst going on retreats is a great way to achieve these, in a sector like the healthcare sector, scarcity of personnel and the continuous care needed by patients can make this option close to impossible to organize.

When interrogating doctors on their favorite place to meet informally with colleagues, they'll tell you they use the cafeteria or restaurant at lunch time as they have little time to take breaks during working hours. They are indeed often working a whole shift without even visiting the toilets. Different movements throughout Europe have stressed out these problems in the last decade, such as the #giveusabreak movement in the UK. Nurses in Belgium have also highlighted throughout several demonstrations last year that the increase in intensity or hardship of their job has been considerable. Patients’ dismissal in hospitals happen more and more quickly and therefor caregivers are requested to spend more and more time with critical patients who need greater care. Planning working shifts by introducing proper resting times is the first step to improve both caregivers and patients care. Second is to offer possibilities within the working environment for staff to gather, have a break and chat within a reasonable walking distance. Giving the word "break" its true importance is probably the key to the success of this strategy.

Personnel will indeed truly benefit of these breaks if they constitute a true interruption from their work routine.

Even if a total refurbishment or a new construction of the facilities is not on the agenda, there are many ways to repurpose existing locations within the existing sites. Gathering places indeed do not need to be the size of large meeting rooms as gathering even just 2 to 3 persons in one same area will already contribute to team building. What can look like meaningless little social talk actually often help pave the way for a subsequent in-session discussion on a difficult or problematic work-related topic.

Ardism_Hospital Lobby.jpg

Placing benches in the common gardens or patios of the hospital or clinic is for instance a great way to combine the benefits of the contact with nature (refer to previous article on usefulness of nature walks) and the change of environment. Inside the buildings, adequate areas can be identified to add small meeting booths or silent pods for the same purpose. They constitute great places for a coffee break or unconventional meetings.

When refurbishment or new construction can be considered, staff lounges or places of respite should be introduced within the departments or somewhere centrally located in short distance from each department. Again, the atmosphere recreated in the areas used for this intent need to be in contrast with their work environment in order to feel the benefits of what can be considered a mini-retreat. Those places should be designed to allow for a true recharge, may it be through fun, calm, eating and drinking, physical activities or conversation or all of those together.

We often notice that healthcare management is not inclined to spend the same budget on staff rooms as on patient or front-of-house rooms. In order to further reduce costs spent on what are seen as non-profitable places, staff lounges are often simply white-painted rooms filled with a few pieces of left-over furniture.

Google as a company has very well understood the importance of investing in staff's happiness through the fitting out of cool, funky and playful offices around the world. Some are equipped with slides, juke boxes, basketball rings or even artificial beaches.

I recently heard Thierry Geerts, CEO of Google Belgium, in a conference, say that data is important to Google, but not as close as important as its engineers. "If we were to lose all of our data, we could collect enough

Ardism_Google Break Area.jpg

again in little time. If we were to lose all of our engineers, damage to the company would be much bigger.".

A parallel to the healthcare sector can obviously be made:

If a hospital were to lose all of its medication and medical equipment, patient care would be dramatically affected. However, if it was to lose all of its caregivers, the consequences would be much worse.

by Sylvie Meunier

January 8, 2020

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