I received the email below after I posted the blog, “By Taking Care of Ourselves We Can Be a Light.” I am sharing the email because it is a reflection of so many of our healthcare workers. I keep shouting from the roof top to hospitals, hospices, home health care agencies, and nursing facilities, “TAKE CARE OF YOUR PEOPLE!!!!!” How can we expect healthcare workers to continue caring for others when no one is addressing their needs?
Dear Barbara, I work as a hospitalist primarily in an oncology and palliative care unit. I am drawn to end of life care and have had an intense but extremely rewarding career. However, over the past year things have changed. As a hospitalist we all rotate through Covid units. I am comfortable with end of life care --it's my calling in medicine. But covid death is different for me in so many ways. Also, the high patient loads, the increased stress, working short handed when coworkers get Covid, the preventable (by vaccine) deaths, the constant background anxiety is finally taking its toll. I feel unbelievably burned out. I am not finding joy in my work that I have always loved. I feel like I have lost my passion and am becoming less able to focus and put the energy into the work I have done without any problems for years. I came home (two hours late) and received your email about self care. It was so needed. I wanted to thank you so much for the work you do. You touch so many lives. Tonight you touched mine. Thanks for your kind thoughts. They really helped, although as I write this I feel rather hopeless that this whole situation can get better. I certainly am going to try. I am going to take a shower and try to wash away the stress. I realize I need self care. I just need to figure out how to do it. You have given me a place to start.
Here are just 7 recommendations for taking care of yourself:
* Find a listener to download your thoughts, fears, and concerns with.
* Create some form of release for the stress you carry: Journaling, video recording, walking, yoga (I know, who has time with work, and then the need to just crash and stare at the walls).
* Cleansing ritual: Immediately shower upon return from work and visualize washing off all the energy you carry from work—sadness, fear, exhaustion, anger-- down the drain so you are “clean” to recoup and re-energize (even if it is just to go to bed. Particularly if it is to just go to bed.)
* Recognize your grief. We are grieving not just the deaths we see and are involved with. We are grieving the loss of our normal, the loss of our time, the loss of our relationships, the loss of our fun and joy.
What can healthcare employers do to support their workers?
* Start offering support groups, on the individual floors at the end of each shift. Just a 15 or 30 minute get together to check in on each other, to talk “It was so hard being with Mr. S. I felt—-." “How is everyone doing today? Do we need to talk about anything?” “Know we are here for each other as well as being here for patients.”
* Have social workers/chaplains available for private support. Offer appointments for private conversations.
* Be creative. Let me know your thoughts for other ways to help each other.
As my husband says, “This too shall pass.” I always respond with “But what do we do until it does?”
Something More about... Healthcare Workers, Hospices, Deathcare Workers~ 7 Recommendations for Taking Care of Yourself
Some of the recommendations here are in my DVD Kit, Care for the Caregiver and my booklet, You Need Care Too. With national hospice month here, watching the dvd at a special appreciation lunch for the team would be a lovely idea. Then give each team member the booklet. Caring for our staff means that our patients and families will be served better~ and isn't that our goal?