Healthcare workers are at high risk of mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and distress, according to the findings of nearly 40 studies conducted in recent years.
Employers in both public and private healthcare must take formal steps to stop the bleed. In this blog post, we discuss the signs and symptoms of mental health problems among healthcare workers, the steps employers can take to support their employee’s mental and emotional well-being, and how an EHR Software supplements those efforts.
Mental health is just as important as… physical health and deserves the same quality of support.Kate Middleton
Signs and Symptoms of Trouble
In healthcare, leaders begin noticing problems when a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional reaches burnout. At this point, you might notice that your employee feels exhausted all the time, begins distancing themselves from their work, feels cynical about their work or employer, and loses efficacy as a professional. Unfortunately, once an employee has reached burnout, it is tough to salvage the relationship.
Instead, employers should aim to recognize the symptoms of distress before they have an opportunity to evolve into anxiety, depression, or burnout. An employee may be in distress if he or she:
- Begins withdrawing from the team or spending more time alone
- Reacts to others inappropriately
- Responds indifferently
- Begins missing deadlines, arriving late, or running out of steam before the shift is over
- Loses confidence in his or her abilities
- Demonstrates changes in performance or decisiveness
How Healthcare Employers Can Promote Mental Health
Healthcare employers could support and transform mental health in a variety of ways.
Set the example at the top
Work-life balance is a critical component of mental, emotional, and physical well-being, yet the majority of employees do not feel like they can take time away from work to care for their mental health when they need to.
In an anonymous survey, an employee of a large corporation said, “When sent an email to our team saying that she was really struggling with her grief after her father passed and she needed a few days to disconnect and work through it, I felt for the first time like I could do the same when I need to.”
When leaders prioritize the importance of mental health, it not only helps remove the stigma surrounding mental health problems but gives employees permission to do the same. Other ways employers can help are to provide enough paid time off each year, avoid interruptions during time off, and not require extensive explanation when an employee says they need a day.
It’s common for supervisors to feel uncertain about handling mental health issues in the workplace, which can result in a myriad of problems:
- A leader who feels insecure about mental health might not feel comfortable having candid conversations with an employee exhibiting signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis
- A supervisor who does not know an employee’s legal rights might turn down a protected request for time off, leaving both the organization and the employee at risk
- An employer who doesn’t know which benefits and resources are available might not be able to help an employee who bravely and openly asks
Organizations can best serve their employees by providing ample training to all new supervisors to ensure they know how to:
1) intervene when they spot the signs and symptoms of mental health problems
2) engage human resources to honor employees’ legal rights
3) connect employees with the benefits and resources available to them.
Ensure your benefits offerings are adequate
One common barrier employees face to treatment for their mental well-being is cost. Ensuring your benefits programs are competitive and not restrictive is critical to meeting the mental health needs of your healthcare workers. These benefits include health insurance, paid time off, and an employee assistance program.
How an Electronic Health Record Can Help
As an employer, supplementing your behavioral health efforts with an EHR can help by ensuring your health team is able to spot trends, access records quickly and conveniently, and document encounters in one central location. A behavioral health or psychiatry EHR can make the difference between catching a problem and intervening early or missing the opportunity to help.