University of Michigan Assistant Professor Sheria Robinson-Lane, Ph.D., RN, MHA

University of Michigan Assistant Professor Sheria Robinson

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Covid-19 exacerbated burnout among healthcare providers, which heightened caregiver shortages everywhere. Sheria Robinson Lane, Assistant Professor at University of Michigan School of Nursing, explained in a recent podcast that she believes that this problem can be addressed by identifying those most at risk of burnout. 

According to a recent study, two thirds  of American workers are facing burnout, which has grown worse over the course of the pandemic. Burnout has had a profound impact on healthcare workers, as well as those in homecare. 

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What Exactly is Burnout?

Burnout generally refers to levels of stress and generally relates to one’s work. This makes it difficult for an individual to cope with their surroundings. The person reaches a point where they are unable to perform their work the way they normally would or unable to do any work at all. This level of frustration or burnout makes it difficult for people to concentrate on a task, increases their chances of suffering from depression, adds to feelings of worthlessness and sadness as well as possible changes in one’s appetite. 

Burnout has been and continues to be a lived reality for many healthcare workers.

In the caregiving business, burnout can lead to mistakes that ultimately affect patient outcomes. Staffing challenges continue to plague the healthcare industry at almost every level. Challenges faced due to shortage in providers resulted in people working longer hours, being away from family and even less time for themselves to resettle their own thoughts and further exacerbating the burnout crisis.

How do Healthcare Leaders Address the Issue of Burnout?

A multi-level approach is required to effectively address burnout.

At the individual level, care providers such as nurses, physicians and others in the healthcare workforce, need to take a proactive role when it comes to their own mental health, which means they need to practice responsible self care. They need to take time out for themselves, do some exercise, take a walk perhaps or listen to some music. 

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Ultimately, healthcare professionals should figure out what they need to do in order to maintain their own mental health, make sure their mind is not too stressed. Successful leaders find ways to support these efforts and encourage self care among their teams.

Initiatives have been taken by some organizations, for instance employee assistance programs, but there is still room for improvement. Efforts should be directed towards having a relaxing space at the workplace, taking note of scheduling, and not having the same person fill in, or thinking about how much overtime a particular person has, to make sure that the person has time to refresh their minds. 

Hucu.ai is one leading-edge technology that lowers turnover rates among healthcare providers in the United States. Hucu.ai lowers burnout among healthcare workers, by offering a platform where there is greater engagement among different team members. Having a real-time outlet to ask for support is a huge relief. Moreover, just having quick access to supervisors and peers can lead to feeling more supported and connected. This results in reduced stress, increased productivity, as well as higher levels of job satisfaction among providers. 

How Does One Identify Someone at Risk of Burnout?

According to Sheria Robinson Lane, one would observe changes in their interpersonal communication. Such providers struggle with patient or family interactions, are more likely to make errors in their work, and will show up late for work. The main thing is changes from typical behavior, where you can see that this is no longer the same person. The only way you can pick up on those changes is if you know your staff well and are well connected with them. 

Building relationships and having deeper conversations with individuals about what is going on with them is key!

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A recentGallup poll has shown that when it comes to employee retention, what makes a big difference is the question, Do you have a best friend at work? It makes a big difference if individuals feel connected. This has the potential to ward off burnout challenges. Plus, with friendly peers, team members can follow up with each other and compassionately ask, “Hey, you’re slipping a little bit. You seem distracted. What’s going on?”

The answer: It’s important to stay connected and have a sense of belonging!

Hucu.ai makes it possible for caregivers working in different locations to stay connected with each other, through secure means of communication. Hucu.ai is HIPAA compliant and because of this, caregivers enjoy giving daily updates or perhaps sharing a family picture with one another. These types of informal communications effectively build on that ‘team feeling’, where every caregiver feels part of the team through constant engagement. By bringing the team together, Hucu.ai makes greater space for providers to get to know one another and support each other through challenging times while celebrating successes together.

How Does One Create a Culture of Staying Connected at All Times?

Homecare agencies can build a healthy connected culture by using IPADs, phones of different types and desktop devices to connect when people are geographically dispersed. They have group chats for fun and just connecting while also having channels for the business stuff so things don’t get lost around patient care. With digital communication it is the little things that matter and sometimes a quick text, shared meme or emoji can bring a smile that keeps burnout at bay.. 

Being nice and showing that people matter doesn’t always come with a cost, something as simple as a good morning check in, how are they doing, did they get home safely, asking about their children, these things matter!

There are a lot of creative ways to create a sense of belonging and community among individuals. If individuals are suffering from burnout, there will absolutely be lower morale at the organization. 

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Through channel-based communication, Hucu.ai creates a culture of connectivity and more importantly, a community-based culture of belonging. Hucu.ai makes it possible to set up channels of communication among staff, whether it’s about a patient or one for their birthdays or even one where they can share pictures of their pets. 

This might seem like a small thing, but the impact it has had on healthcare providers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic is huge!

Providers are also human beings, and they struggle with their mental health at times as well. There need to be more avenues where they can take out time, relax without getting overwhelmed by all that they do for us. Hucu.ai allows them to do this. Providers can use it to set up channels for stuff that is not necessarily work-related but helps build the team. Sometimes it is the little things that count the most, the things that make all of us feel like we matter and that we are being listened to by someone. A kind word goes a long way!

To Combat Burnout, Great Leaders Build Community

There is a lot of community building that is needed given we are still in the midst of the pandemic, individuals are still getting sick, they are still dying, people are still dealing with the grief over losses that happened over the course of the pandemic. Therefore, paying attention to the mental status of team members and warding against burnout is a critical leadership function. Implementing good communication tools, knowing your team members well, and providing the support your team needs in real-time goes a long way to keeping your team healthy and engaged.

Source – How to cool caregiver burnout? Create a culture of belonging. Sheria Robinson-Lane. McKnight’s Home Care Newsmakers podcast. DECEMBER 22, 2022. 

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