Possible Solutions To Help Prevent Stress Among Hospital Staff

Possible Solutions To Help Prevent Stress Among Hospital Staff

Stress among healthcare professionals is an often overlooked and underestimated problem. In recent decades, research has revealed that hospital staff faces frequent work-related stressors resulting in physical, emotional, and psychological strain. Not only can this have a detrimental effect on their working environment, but it can also have a lasting influence on the quality of patient care they provide.

The repercussions of such high levels of stress impacting staff within hospitals are natural, unpredictable, and too often go unacknowledged or unreported – making it increasingly necessary to find solutions to reduce the impact felt by healthcare workers across the globe. This blog post will dive deep into potential strategies for managing stress among hospital staff, from implementing resiliency training initiatives for medical teams to introducing ways employers can support better employee self-care practices.

Stress Among Nurses

Stressors vary among healthcare occupations and even within fields, depending on the task performed. In general, studies of nurses have found the following factors linked with stress:

  • Work overload
  • Time pressure
  • Lack of social support at work (especially from supervisors, head nurses, and higher management)
  • Exposure to infectious diseases
  • Needlestick injuries
  • Exposure to work-related violence or threats
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Role ambiguity and conflict
  • Understaffing
  • Career development issues
  • Dealing with difficult or seriously ill patients

Stress Among Physicians

Among physicians, the following factors are associated with stress:

  • long hours
  • excessive workload
  • dealing with death and dying
  • interpersonal conflicts with other staff
  • patient expectations
  • the threat of malpractice litigation

The quality of patient care a hospital provides may also affect healthcare worker stress. Beliefs about whether the institution offers high-quality care may increase job pressures and workload due to the requirement for more significant support and resources.

How to Cope

  • Communicate with your coworkers, supervisors, and employees about job stress.
    • Identify factors that cause stress and work together to identify solutions.
    • Ask about how to access mental health resources in your workplace.
  • Identify and accept those things which you do not have control over.
  • Increase your sense of control by keeping a consistent daily routine when possible.
    • Try to get adequate sleep.
    • Make time to eat healthy meals.
    • Take breaks during your shift to rest, stretch, or check in with supportive colleagues, coworkers, friends, and family.
  • When away from work, get exercise when you can. Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing. Do things you enjoy during non-work hours.
  • If you feel you may be misusing alcohol or other drugs (including prescriptions), ask for help.
  • Engage in mindful techniques, such as breathing exercises and meditation.

Here Are Some Possible Solutions To Help Prevent Stress Among Hospital Staff

There are many solutions to help prevent stress among hospital staff, including educating employees and management about job stress and establishing programs to address workplace stress, such as:

  • An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can improve the ability of workers to cope with difficult work situations. Stress management programs teach workers about the nature and sources of stress, the effects of stress on health, and personal skills to reduce stress (e.g., time management or relaxation exercises).
  • Organizational Change Programs change hospital policies and procedures to reduce organizational sources of stress. Employers may want to hire a consultant to recommend ways to improve working conditions. This approach is the most direct way to reduce stress at work. It involves identifying stressful aspects of work (e.g., excessive workload, conflicting expectations) and designing strategies to reduce or eliminate the identified stressors. Some strategies include:
    • Ensure that the workload is in line with workers’ capabilities and resources.
    • Design jobs to provide meaning, stimulation, and opportunities for workers to use their skills.
    • Clearly define workers’ roles and responsibilities.
    • Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs.

Healthcare workers in hospitals are exposed to high levels of occupational stress resulting from heavy workloads, extended working hours, and high levels of time pressure. Hospital staff members, including physicians and nurses, are at a higher risk of suffering from depressive disorders than the general population. The hazards associated with the prolonged hours worked by resident physicians and interns have been documented. Depressed residents made 6.2 times as many medication errors per resident per month as those who were not depressed. Hospital staff nurses who had frequent overtime had difficulties in staying awake on duty and reduced sleep times, and had nearly triple the risk of making an error.

Recently, considerable concern about job stress has given rise to a theoretical approach that focuses on a demand-control-support model of job strain, as proposed by Karasek et al. This model predicts that job strain will occur when psychological work demands are high and the worker’s job control is low, while a low level of workplace social support will increase the risk of adverse health outcomes.

The psychological demand dimension relates to “how hard workers work” (mental workload), organizational constraints on task completion, and conflicting demands. Job control, discretion in utilizing one’s skills, and decision-making authority are measured by a set of questions that assess the level of skill and creativity required on the job and the flexibility permitted by the worker in deciding what skills to employ. A Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ) was developed by Karasek et al. based on the demand-control-support model. The model predicts that job strain will occur when the psychological demands of the job are high and the worker’s decision-making latitude is low, while a low level of support increases the risk of adverse outcomes.

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