Anyone working in healthcare recognizes that healthcare workplaces are very stressful environments. Excessive workloads, extended hours and overtime, staff shortages, demanding patients and families and uncooperative colleagues, all contribute to high levels of stress. It would be no surprise then that a nurse would consider taking a ‘stress’ day to recharge and regain emotional stability before going back in to the stressful work environment.
Needless to say, organizations cannot afford a multitude of ‘stress’ days as this is not only costly, it also disrupts patient care. In response, many organizations will offer stress management sessions (Stress Less: How to Float Your Balloon) to give employees the tools to deal with stressful situations.
Some organizations intensify their absence management program and impose additional rules and reviews of employee absence. In many cases, this approach simply increases employee resentment and can increase absence as employees feel that they are being made the scapegoats for circumstances beyond their control.
In a new white paper on stress management, Kevin Friery, Right Management Workplace Wellness, http://bit.ly/1mnTgpE argues that more responsibility should lay with the employer. He urges employers to consider the conditions in the workplace that may be contributing to the stress and suggests employers consider:
- What are we doing to make work ‘good’ for employees’ health and well-being?
- What do we do that might make work ‘bad’ for employees’ well-being and health?
Consider your shift scheduling practices for example. Many health organizations schedule nurses on 12 hour shifts, usually for 3 and sometimes 4 consecutive shifts. Shiftwork scheduling best practice, however, is to schedule no more than 2 – 12 hr. shifts in a row. This allows for adequate rest and recuperation and protects employee health and well-being. This, in turn, reduces the need for a ‘stress’ day.
Employers can also do something ‘good’ for employee health and well-being by ensuring that healthy food sources are available to nurses when they do not have time to run to the cafeteria. Installing a small refrigerator on each unit and stocking it with fruit, cheese and yoghurt would send a message to employees that their well-being is important.
If you are squeezing staffing levels to reduce budget expenses, consider that even a .5 additional nurse per shift could make a huge difference in reducing, not only individual workload, but stress and fatigue as well. A nurse that is not utterly physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the shift is much more likely to feel able to return for the next shift. Organization wins. Employees win. Patients win.