Resilience in healthcare report considers pandemic positives

Thursday, 06 May, 2021

Resilience in healthcare report considers pandemic positives

The coronavirus pandemic has been the most challenging period for Australian healthcare workers and organisations in recent history. A recent report reveals that 78% of Australians believe that the nation’s healthcare system is resilient enough to withstand another global pandemic, highlighting how the COVID-19 pandemic showcased the resilience and expertise of our healthcare workforce.

The survey of 1013 Australians explored the lessons learnt from the incredible response healthcare workers demonstrated throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Inspired by the reaction of the sector, Randstad has produced a report for healthcare organisations looking to build resilience and use the response as inspiration. The toolkit captures the shared experience of healthcare workers and what they believe kept them going during difficult times.

Randstad’s Building a Resilient Healthcare Workforce report looks at what can be learned from this extraordinary period in our history, with outtakes that can support long-term business growth and build a happier and more productive workforce.

Understanding the response

The report notes that coordination between private and public health, and state and federal authorities was vital to the success of the healthcare response. Technologies and innovation within the sector also played a part, including elements such as remote patient screening and establishing virtual hospitals.

“Of all the industries hit by COVID-19, health care was on the front line and Australia’s success in reining in the worst of the pandemic can be owed to our country’s health and social care professionals,” Randstad National Solutions Manager of Health and Social Care Jade Mortlock said.

“The report also highlights how healthcare professionals have had to learn to be resilient by rapidly adjusting their practice. Constantly finding new ways of working, new ways of engaging and new ways of harnessing technology have been key to adapting to the crisis and being prepared for the future.”

Mortlock added that people often expect healthcare workers to be resilient, but it’s important to take time to consider and understand the individual impact of stressful situations.

“Interestingly, of the healthcare professionals that were interviewed, no two journeys were the same, highlighting the importance of understanding individual perspectives and how employers can provide support.”

Reporting on the positives of handling a stressful situation, Nursing Manager Tracy Churchill said, “We tend to think about the downside of this [stress], but people find strength and find hope and something to live for and grow into, and that can be positive.”

Tracy highlighted the importance of focusing on self-care early on in people’s careers, “so when these things happen, we have a huge sense of resilience to build on and grow from”.

Impact on the workforce

The pandemic has placed extra strain on a workforce that was already experiencing staffing issues, particularly in allied health and healthcare workers with professional backgrounds. Mortlock said that turnover in healthcare roles has been high and spoke of reported declines in university intakes for healthcare professions. This has been exacerbated by the restrictions relating to international students and graduates.

Providing support

Five key takeaways are detailed in the report, which can be applied to any business. These include:

  • stress the positive
  • engage and empower
  • safeguard mental health
  • strengthen agility and prevention
  • embrace technology.

Organisations should ask their staff if they have the tools needed to support their mental health. While individuals might appear to be coping, they may not have the innate ability to recognise burnout and may lack the confidence to ask for help. Organisations have an obligation to offer tailored support to individuals and to communicate to their staff that resources are available, and that they can reach out to colleagues and peers.

Support can take many forms, but could include internal or outsourced employee assistance programs; engagement of leadership staff to communicate information about support resources; and regular communication from leadership providing transparent updates about what is happening within an organisation.

Mortlock emphasised that access to quality data is key to informing decision-making, encouraging organisations to look at the data to make decisions and find the right actions to take for their staff.

Image credit: © Planet Studio

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