Healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic are heroes. These medical teams go into work every day, putting their lives at risk. While hospital leaders manage their resources to fight COVID-19, they must  make it safer and easier for their workers to succeed.

Healthcare workers need to know their leaders fully support them. Unfortunately, a recent Gallup poll shows that many hospital leaders have fallen short. Among the findings:

  • 19% of healthcare professionals feel their employer has communicated too little about COVID-19.
  • 54% of healthcare employees feel well prepared to do their jobs, but only 37% feel very confident they’ll be able to successfully do their jobs if the outbreak continues.
  • 36% of healthcare workers strongly agree they are confident they will be safe if they follow their organization’s health policies.

Results are based on self-administered web surveys conducted March 13 to April 14, 2020, with a random sample of U.S. adults aged 18 and older, who are members of the Gallup Panel. Of the total adults surveyed, 2,175 were healthcare workers and are included in this analysis.

The poll results are a wake-up call for healthcare leaders in the face of crisis. The three main takeaways are:

1. More communication

Regular briefings and huddles are not enough. Now is not the time to hold back or keep secrets. These times are already confusing and uncertain. Leaders must communicate clearly and transparently to employees, even if the news is unpleasant.

Leaders won’t be able to answer every question or predict the future, but they can build trust with employees by sharing what they know.

2. Embrace innovation

As the contagion challenges workplace norms, leaders must remain agile and open to change. Hospitals are typically laggards when it comes to technology adoption and innovation. However, in the face of COVID-19, they are fast-tracking provisions like telehealth and interoperability and team-based care.

Healthcare silos are falling away. At the same time, private partnerships are stepping in to fill the void. For example, a Formula One racing team pivoted its resources to design and rapidly produce ventilators for respiratory medical care. And Bauer transitioned its hockey and lacrosse equipment manufacturing into making face shields, similar to welding masks, as extra protection against contamination.

The COVID-19 crisis is forcing leaders to accept change, and those who embrace innovation can provide more to their teams than medical equipment. It shows a willingness to do whatever it takes to help caregivers do their jobs.

3. Holistic well-being support

Keeping healthcare workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic means more than providing for physical wellness.

Physician and nurse burnout has long been a problem, exacerbated now by the crisis. Work environments that develop holistic employee well-being protect against burnout and can improve work performance.

A holistic approach takes into account career, social, financial and community well-being in addition to physical well-being. Only 44% of Gallup respondents strongly agree their organizations care about their overall well-being.

The poll also found that caregivers who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall well-being are more than twice as likely to feel well prepared to do their jobs as those who do not strongly agree (72% vs 30%).

The way forward

Healthcare workers don’t have the luxury to stay home and shelter in place. This pandemic has made clear the heroic work they are doing.

While it is still unclear when we will come out of the COVID-19 crisis, healthcare leaders can appreciate the benefits of an engaged, supported workforce. With clear, transparent communication, an openness to innovation, and a plan for holistic well-being support, healthcare leaders can regularly show how they fully support their medical teams.

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