Employee wellness programs are a growing priority for palliative care workers

Without effective strategies to support their own well-being, the psychological impact of working in palliative care could cause staff to leave the field in greater numbers.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Death and Dying, self-preservation is “paramount” to working in the area of ​​critical illness and end-of-life care.

Hospice workers in England and Wales said employers need to provide greater transparency about the nature of hospice work and more opportunities for activities that promote wellbeing.

“These results have future implications at the organizational level, identifying areas of adjustment for employee well-being,” the study authors wrote. “Additionally, it can also educate aspiring end-of-life care staff to prepare for the reality of palliative care environments.”

All study participants indicated the need to incorporate wellness activities into their work schedules rather than sacrificing personal time. Choosing to leave work to manage one’s well-being was identified as an “important dilemma” among all respondents, the researchers said.

Although the study took place in the UK, the findings are important for US palliative care providers who are facing labor shortages in which the rising incidence of burnout is a factor. contributory.

Workforce pressures have caused sleepless nights for many palliative care leaders for several years in a row and are expected to worsen over the next two decades.

Encouraging a self-care model can help employees feel more valued and develop stronger employer-staff relationships, according to Christy Taylor, social worker at Hospice of Health First in Florida. In 2019, the company developed an employee wellness program designed to give staff uninterrupted time to focus on themselves, time with peers, and opportunities for self-reflection.

“The nature of palliative care work can be physically and emotionally stressful. It’s important that we take care of ourselves, and most of us know how physically but miss the emotional part, Taylor previously told Hospice News. “The opportunity gives us time to recharge emotionally, processing our feelings and connecting with our colleagues.”

Hospices have adopted a number of strategies to help staff cope with the emotional burden of their work. Hospice of Health First is one of many providers investing more in employee wellness programs. Some hospices also use regular staff surveys to gauge employee satisfaction.

But hospices may also need to be more upfront with potential employees about the nature of the work they will do, according to a recent UK study.

Respondents to the study indicated a need for employers to educate workers new to palliative care about the potential personal impact of working in the field.

“Additionally, these themes can serve to educate aspiring palliative/end-of-life care nurses about the reality and impact of working in a palliative care setting,” the authors wrote. “As previously mentioned by some participants, this insight would be invaluable for newcomers before fully committing to the potentially difficult career path.”

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