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Managing Burnout and Staffing Shortages: Creative scheduling, Wellness Programs, and Self-Care at Home

April 28, 2022


Managing Burnout and Staffing Shortages: Creative scheduling, Wellness Programs, and Self-Care at Home

In last month’s 10 to 1 Webinar Series, “What to Know and Do About Nurse Burnout,” Kathy Beydler spoke with Dr. Margaret Below, mind-body medicine practitioner and healthcare consultant. Below, who has many years of perioperative leadership, differentiates between burnout and moral injury.   

The circumstances and factors that lead to burnout and moral injury for nurses are complex and magnified by the COVID pandemic. OR leaders, including some of our 2022 Perioperative Power List winners, discuss solutions to help support staff during a historically difficult time for healthcare workers.

Claudine Hoppen, Vice President of Surgical Services, Henry Ford Health System  

“I think we must figure out a way to develop more creative incentive plans for our staff. Very often, especially with younger generations, it may not be the sheer financial remuneration they seek. They’re looking for work-life balance, and we’ve missed that. Would they rather have more PTO time? How can we flex their schedules? Many years ago, we had creative solutions when I was an ICU nurse, such as a weekend cadre (weekend only). You would work a 12 on Saturday, a 12 on Sunday, and maybe an 8 on a Friday or a Monday. They could plan their lives around that, and it gave them that work-life balance. We got away from some of those creative staffing models that I think we need to start digging out and dusting off.”  

Stephen Lovern, System Senior Director of Perioperative Services and Quality, Carilion Clinic  

“You know, there comes a point where people get a little tired of the word ‘resilience’ because we’ve talked about it so much. But at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is preserve our staff. Keep them whole and keep them coming back for the next day. We must recruit them every single day and make sure that they want to stay with us. 

We’re very fortunate to have a couple of different programs in our organization. Our employee assistance program allows five free visits with a counselor. It’s all private and confidential. They don’t share any information with your leadership. We found that five visits get people in a place where they either transition to formal/full-time counseling through their insurance, or at five sessions they are in a good place, and they don’t need that assistance any longer.  

The other thing we have is a wellness program. Over the last few months, they have been going from unit to unit with a massage chair, healthy snacks, and a brief overview of their services. Staff can get a 10-minute chair massage, learn about the available resources, and feel good when they leave. 

Leadership has an open-door policy where people can come in anytime. We’ve always had that, but we really want to make sure that people understand that if they’re having a bad day and just want to talk, our doors are open, whether personal or professional. We’re not counselors, and we don’t try to be, but sometimes people just need an ear to listen to get them through the day.” 

Meredith Cornett, Director of Surgical Services, Anne Arundel Medical Center 

“It’s two parts: leaders need to do things for themselves, but what do the leaders do for staff members? Some things I’ve been working on is self-help. Reminding people to take care of themselves. For example, drink water, and get enough sleep. For nursing leaders who are in virtual meetings, get up and walk around. The organization where I am now has offered one day of telecommuting. 

We also need to think about what we’re doing outside of work now that COVID restrictions are lifted? Do you go to a game, spend time with your children, or go for a walk? We’ve gotten away from that with the social restrictions early in the pandemic. We’re starting to tell this to our staff, providing them with tips on how to reincorporate relationships and do fun stuff again.  

We’re also trying not to send emails between 7:00 PM and 7:00 AM. When you get an email from your boss, you feel like you need to respond immediately. Put a delay on your email to send it out at 7:00 AM. It’s those little things that can make a difference.  

Be present. The staff has to see you in the operating room more, not the occasional once a quarter. Round on the units in the ORs. Show staff that you’re not just sitting in an office, that you can also be there to help them turn over a room and that you care about them by walking in their shoes. We all say we have an open-door policy. But does anybody really feel comfortable walking in and saying, ‘You know what, this place frustrates me.’? I sent out an email recently asking people to talk to me and if they don’t feel comfortable replying to an email, put a note under my door.”