It may be difficult to see when colleagues are struggling to cope, especially when they respond to your concerns with the words.... "I'm fine"...Unfortunately they may not feel able to tell you directly that they are not coping well (McHugh et al, 2014). They may also be unable to recognise ill health in themselves (Chan et al, 2014).
As staff health directly relates to safe and effective patient care, we have developed some basic strategies for managers looking to improve the health and well being of their team.
Tip One: Listen. Listen to what is and is not being said. Read between the lines and think outside of the box. Have you seen a change in the team dynamics? a change in behaviour? Out of character decision making? These could all alert you to the possibility of ill health in staff.
Tip Two: Try to ensure that staff have time to meet appointments, therapeutic treatments and access to public health support services during working hours. This will show staff that you value their well being, care for their welfare. In doing this,staff in turn will also value their health.
Tip Three: Recognise the need for sufficient work/life balance. Staff often feel pressured to put the care systems needs above their own needs (Prowse et al, 2015). This is not conducive to a healthy working culture.
Tip four: Don't ignore your gut. If staff cannot seek or accept help, you need to escalate the situation to an appropriate professional. Ill behavior or other symptoms of ill health can impair the judgement of staff and make them more prone to medical error. It is in their best interest that a referral is made, as well as the patients.
Set the standard for open cultures of learning and acceptance. Be the change you want to see in the world. Talk openly, seek guidance and galvanize a supportive workplace culture that allows for potential secrets to be shared. The learning culture within practice should also translate to ill health in the workplace.
Remember that we are all working towards the same goals in healthcare. Yet healthcare at the moment is a challenging place to work. We empower our managers to lead the way for change. The new challenge is to support our valuable workforce.
Talk to us today if you would like to turn this vision into practice.
Chan, W., Batterham, P., Christensen, H., Galletly, C (2014) Suicide literacy, suicide stigma and help-seeking intentions in Australian medical students. Australas Psychiatry April 2014 vol. 22 no. 2 132-139
McHugh, A, Dawson, L, Moncrieff, G, McDonald, B, Parton, S, Gillies, H (2014) ARE IN YOU IN DESPAIR FOR YOUR FUTURE IN GENERAL PRACTICE? Available from https://pracmanhealth.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/are-you-in-despair-for-your-future-in-general-practice-final-report1.pdf (Accessed 29/10/14)
Prowse, Julie, and Peter Prowse. "Flexible working and work–life balance: midwives’ experiences and views." Work, Employment & Society (2015): 0950017015570724.