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5 Ways to Keep Healthcare Employees Motivated in Stressful Situations

Staff motivation is a challenge for any organization, in any industry. But because of the high-stress nature and emotionally-charged events that doctors, nurses, EMTs, and others in the healthcare industry face every single day, motivational support along with interactive and proactive processes that focus on individuals and their environment is important.

So what best practices should leadership follow to keep employees motivated during difficult conditions?

1. Keep Calm: Keeping employees productive and effective during stressful situations is challenging, but it’s up to leaders to maintain order and inspire confidence. Stress is often created from the top down, as employees absorb the uncertainty they feel from their superiors. Make sure employees in leadership roles are able to keep calm in high stress environments.

2. Stay Positive: It’s easy to let a bad situation get the best of you, but a positive leader can keep people from shutting down. According to Barbara Fredrickson, a research psychologist at the University of Michigan, positive emotions help individuals and organizations thrive. They also broaden the way people think so they build their personal resources, such as connections with others, knowledge of their abilities, and physical health and strength. Committing to positive behavior helps employees build up their internal resources, which end up operating as reserves that help them cope and overcome the negative feelings stressful situations can bring on. A University of Chicago study found that writing down negative thoughts and unloading anxiety before the situation occurs has a calming effect and can increase performance. Having employees take time to write down negative thoughts about certain situations could be helpful.

3. Make Sure Employees Are Trained: The best way to ensure that employees are prepared to deal with unexpected circumstances is to train them. Not only will it lead to better outcomes, but it will reduce stress, since workers will feel equipped to face a difficult situation calmly. Since not every scenario can be addressed beforehand, give your staff a guiding set of core values or standards of behavior that will help them figure out what to do in uncertain times. Reinforce the training often so it’s not forgotten.

4. Keep Lines of Communication Open: Effective communication is key in every organization, but when stressful events take place, open communication is essential to keeping a positive and supportive environment. Healthcare workers see more tragic things in one day than most do in a year. Encourage your employees to be open and honest about their everyday challenges and frustrations. Make it a point to touch base with everyone at least on a monthly basis to listen and provide support for some stress relief. As healthcare workers, you’re responsible for the care of ill patients, but you can’t forget about the wellbeing of yourself and your coworkers. One study found that nurses who used effective interpersonal communication on a daily basis were able to support their own emotional and psychological development, reduce stress, and keep morale high among employees. An effective workplace communication strategy isn’t just good for business; it’s good for the overall health and wellbeing of your staff.

5. Give Recognition: Healthcare workers have what can feel like a thankless job. They work long hours; they have to comfort fearful family members; and sometimes the outcome is negative despite their best efforts. It’s important to recognize and reward these workers for upholding your organization’s core values under times of duress.

At WorkStride we have the privilege of administering Orlando Health’s recognition program, which was awash in hundreds of positive messages between staff members after the horrible tragedy at Pulse nightclub. Employees thanked each other for working overtime, coming in on their days off, and for their skilled performance under extreme pressure. They expressed pride in their teams and in their hospital. As small as it might seem, seeing positive messages of thanks and appreciation after such a stressful event provides inspiration to all staff members. It keeps them motivated to carry on even through the most difficult of circumstances.

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