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How to Care for Healthcare Workers During the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

Coffee shops are giving them free drinks. Train systems are letting them ride for free. Restaurants are providing them with complimentary meals. Shoe companies are even giving them new pairs of shoes.  

Healthcare workers are being thanked for their service more than ever during the novel coronavirus pandemic — and rightfully so. From nurses to foodservice workers to transporters, they are the backbone of an effective healthcare system, and during a pandemic, they put their lives on the line every day. 

Protecting and valuing healthcare workers certainly begins with factors like providing enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensuring safety protocols are adhered to, but hospitals, clinics and employers have a responsibility that goes far beyond that. 

Honoring the other needs of healthcare workers, including getting enough sleep and eating healthy, can go a long way in keeping them happy, healthy, and proud to play such an essential role during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ensuring Team Members Are Well-Rested 

On any given day, healthcare workers navigate demanding work days. They work long shifts, spend hours on their feet, and are constantly working against the clock to care for patients. In fact, up to 75% of shift workers experience some level of fatigue and sleepiness while on the job. 

The World Health Organization considers fatigue to be one of the most common risks to safety and health during emergencies. It can lead to impaired language, memory, motor skills, and hand-eye coordination — all of which put patient lives on the line. 

Add a national pandemic into the mix, and these pressures are sure to skyrocket. For instance, during the 2003 SARS outbreak, up to 75% of healthcare workers in Taiwan experienced psychological deterioration, putting both their wellbeing as well as their patients’ at risk. 

Now is the time to ensure the burden on healthcare providers is reduced as much as possible. Some countermeasures that may mitigate fatigue include naps of less than a half hour during extended shifts, recovery between shifts, and schedules that allow for consistent sleep-wake patterns. 

By developing organizational strategies to prevent excessively long shifts and provide adequate breaks, workers can be rested and prepared to continue to care for patients. 

Ensuring Team Members Are Well-Fed 

Healthcare professionals spend countless hours educating patients on their nutritional needs. However, some may find themselves going against their own advice, especially while in the fast-paced environment of an outbreak. 

Healthcare workers benefit from nutritious meals in the same way everyone else does — they fuel their body and mind to perform at their best. Not only does nutrition directly impact their own well-being, but it also allows them to be at their peak performance when providing care. 

The stress of a pandemic can be significant for those on the frontline. Stress can be mitigated by maintaining a healthy diet full of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, beans, and meats. 

By providing access to easy, healthy snacks and meals, you can show your concern for your team members’ health and ensure they are nourishing their bodies and minds. 

Ensuring Team Members’ Families Are Cared For 

The minute a healthcare worker enters the doors of a hospital, they become more vulnerable to novel coronavirus. This is the risk they take — one the nation thanks them deeply for. 

However, a vulnerable population that may be less obvious is healthcare workers’ families and loved ones. Spouses, children, grandparents, siblings — many of these individuals run the risk of exposure to coronavirus simply by knowing and loving someone who spends their time in a healthcare facility. 

First, it’s important to continue to educate healthcare workers on their role in protecting their families. This includes following infection control protocols after shifts, monitoring their own symptoms, and even separating living spaces, if necessary. 

In addition, hospitals need to assure team members that their loved ones will be cared for if they do become infected with coronavirus. For instance, if possible, healthcare facilities can provide employees and families priority access to coronavirus testing. 

Providing Support and Building Confidence 

The COVID-19 crisis is taking a toll on the entire globe and healthcare workers are bearing a large portion of the burden. It falls on leadership to address the concerns of healthcare workers and demonstrate their appreciation for all that they do. 

This begins with seemingly basic steps, like providing adequate time for rest or access to nutritious meals. But there are opportunities to show appreciation in creative ways, too, such as recognizing specific employees for their hard work or sending thank-you notes to express your gratitude. 

COVID-19 is asking a lot of healthcare workers, and they continue to step up to the plate. Now more than ever, healthcare organizations should find ways to return the favor. 

Do you have questions about supporting your healthcare workings during the novel coronavirus outbreak? Learn more about Sodexo’s employee solutions. 

June 05, 2020

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