Pandemic Weary? 5 Keys to Keep Medical Teams Engaged

  This has been an extremely challenging year for everyone working in healthcare—from clinical lab technicians and therapists to physicians, nurses and administrators. Even the cleaning staff and food service personnel have been working overtime and under stressful conditions.

Frontline healthcare workers have been applauded for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as cases drag on, you and your medical colleagues may be growing weary—both physically and mentally. It is a palpable feeling that can affect your entire department. It also verifies a Gallup poll taken earlier this year that found three out of four healthcare workers (78 percent) believed the coronavirus would have a “somewhat negative” or “very negative” effect on their workplace.

So what can leaders and staff do to keep up morale and keep everyone engaged?

According to the Gallup organization, this is a critical time for leaders to safeguard employees’ needs and ensure that staff members know they are supported. It is also important for everyone on the medical team to look out for each other.

“Medical team encouragement is paramount to everything from patient satisfaction to the revenue and profit of the business,” says Kyle D. Bogan, DDS, a speaker and consultant on medical office culture. “During the stressful and uncertain times that healthcare providers find themselves in today, employers should be doubling down on employee engagement.”

Here are some key strategies that can help you and your team stay focused, connected and engaged.

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5 Strategies to Keep Medical Staff Engaged

1. Show leadership support 

Managers and supervisors must be deliberate about showing employees that they are supported. They should also be deliberate about acknowledging the challenges that everyone has been going through--and may be continuing to go through.

In fact, it helps if leaders can admit that it’s a challenging time for them, too, suggests Christine Kiesinger, PhD, vice president of development and lead trainer of conscious communication and emotional intelligence for Studio BE. This kind of honesty can foster trust and respect among the medical staff and help keep everyone engaged.

“The leader has to set the stage and set the tone,” says Kiki Orski, MBA, RN, founder of Peak Performance Consulting.

In order to be effective, the entire organization’s leadership team needs to be on board—and be visible about their desire to support their employees.

2. Leaders: Get out there and keep communication open  

Leaders: don’t hole up in your office or rely on others to communicate for you. Get out there and talk to your employees. Let your team know that you’re listening and that you want to hear from them.

“They need to be sure they’re getting an accurate picture of what’s happening on the front line,” says Orski.

Cory Colton, principal executive coach with Inflection Point Coaching, suggests increasing the frequency of leader rounding, when leaders walk the floors and take time to speak with employees.

“Senior and executive leaders should use this opportunity to connect genuinely with the staff to let them know how much they are appreciated, recognize their meaningful work and understand issues the staff are facing,” says Colton.

3. Encourage employee feedback and communication 

Good communication, of course, is a two-way street. Organizations should encourage their medical staff to communicate with the leadership team and make multiple pathways available for them to submit feedback. Managers at all levels should make a habit of asking staff members how you they can better support them in a meaningful way. 

After all, the medical staff is the face of an organization, notes Orski. Leaders need to know how they’re feeling, because they’re the ones communicating with customers and the community.

Establishing a flow of communication may take some time to achieve, however, so be prepared.

“If your organization has not been a communication-friendly zone in the past, your team will not turn on a dime to break down those barriers that have been in place,” says Bogan. “They may still fear that speaking out will cause them to lose their position. A regular and reinforced cadence of meetings and other communication opportunities will slowly break down the barriers of the past.”

4. Make sure staff members are taking care of themselves, and each other 

Managers, team leaders and others on the medical team should keep tabs on each other. Kiesinger suggests considering these questions:

  • Are team members taking the time to care for themselves?
  • Are they staying connected to each other?
  • Are they receiving praise and affirmation for all their hard work?

  • “Leaders should remind staff of the role that social support plays in navigating stress and transition,” notes Kiesinger.

    For example, a department manager could encourage staff to schedule regular gatherings where they can talk about anything but work, suggests Kiesinger. For now, those gatherings might have to be socially distanced or virtual. Supervisors may also want to schedule short daily check-ins so each staff member always has an opportunity to request any extra support he or she might need that day.

    5. Don’t make decisions in a vacuum 

    It doesn’t do much good to improve communication if leaders are not going to take their medical staff’s feedback into account when making decisions. It is important to establish a way to generate input from employees who are close to the work, and then find a way to incorporate that input.

    “Frontline leaders and staff should be included in the process when possible,” says Colton.

    Shared decision-making and a culture of care and support can make all the difference when it comes to maintaining your medical team’s morale.

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