physician caring for patient

How to Take Care of Yourself, Your Patients and Staff

In the age of COVID-19, “taking care” means more than just attending to basic needs. It also means understanding how to take care of yourself and those around you in different, but impactful, ways.

The American Medical Association (AMA) cautions health care providers to attend to their mental health and psychosocial well-being, as well as their staff and patients, especially in the most stressful of times. They’ve provided the following tips for ways to take care of yourself, your patients and your staff so you all can remain healthy and well during the pandemic.

Taking Care of Yourself

  • Feel your feelings. Feeling stressed by pandemic pressures is not a weakness or reflection of your ability to do your job.
  • Intentionally employ coping strategies. What’s worked for you in the past? They suggest getting enough rest, taking respite time during work, eating right, exercising and connecting as best as possible with support networks.
  • Perform regular check-ins with yourself. If you’re overwhelmed with sadness, have trouble sleeping or feel hopeless for long periods, talk to someone you trust or seek help from a professional.
  • Take breaks from the news or social media. It is okay to step away from the 24/7 news cycle.
  • Be fortified by remembering the importance and meaning of your work. The AMA reminds physicians of the nobility of their calling—caring for people in need during times of uncertainty.

Taking Care of Staff

  • Adjust staffing procedures and schedules (where possible). They suggest finding legal ways of “rotating workers from higher-stress to lower stress functions.” Also, consider having experienced colleagues help those with less experience and make schedules more flexible.
  • Offer access to psychosocial support. Make psychosocial support as much a priority as physical safety.
  • Monitor and review staff member well-being. Ensure this is part of your process so you can respond to issues and needs as they arise.
  • Create an environment of open communication. Make space for staff to ask questions and give feedback while keeping them in the loop about how the practice or organization is tackling challenges.

Taking Care of Patients

  • Establish a system to identify and provide care for mental health conditions. How are you identifying patients with common and severe mental health conditions? Make sure trained staff members understand the role of stigma in accessing mental health care. Consider using telemedicine to deliver behavioral health care, if appropriate.
  • Facilitate additional training for frontline staff. Ensure frontline workers have received training on basic psychosocial care principles and psychological first aid.
  • Verify referral pathways. Know how you’ll connect your patients with the resources they need.
  • Provide clear understandable communication to patients. Verbally communicate in “plain English” whenever possible.
  • Incorporate guidance about stress into general care practices. Normalize pandemic stress for your patients and make it part of your practice. Teach them how to recognize it and how to reduce stress with diet, exercise, meditation, therapy, etc.
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