The Joint Commission issued this week guidance on how healthcare organizations can address employee well-being amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Healthcare workers have been under heightened levels of stress as they cope with challenges associated with COVID-19 such as lack of personal protective equipment, fear of getting infected and reduction of staff due to furloughs or layoffs. In its guidance, the Joint Commission said its "critical" healthcare employers "have systems in place that support institutional and individual resilience" as a result of the pandemic.
Among the strategies the Joint Commission offered was institutions and state licensing boards removing any questions about employees' previous history of mental health conditions or treatment because it contributes to stigma and discourages seeking care. Some state licensing boards require physicians to disclose past mental health history although the Federation of State Medical Boards has recommended those questions be removed.
The Joint Commission also encouraged leadership at healthcare organizations to promote staff well-being by communicating regularly, offering psychosocial first aid, encouraging peer support and sharing positive feedback.
The strategies outlined shouldn't be "perceived as an exhaustive list," said Erin Lawler, human factors engineer at the Joint Commission, in an email. Rather, the strategies are well-documented approaches to handling crises, she said.
Some health systems have acknowledged the emotional toll the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on caregivers and have put in place resources to address emotional well-being such as hosting support groups, offering free mental health resources, resilience training and hazard pay.
The Joint Commission's routine guidance, called Quick Safety, reaches more than 3,000 healthcare personnel including members of the C-suite and patient safety experts. The open rate to the email is 23.4% and more than 66% click to download the alert, according to Lawler.