America simply cannot be strong without its hospitals being strong. In turn, hospitals and health systems meet their mission and serve patients best when they are equipped with a strong, healthy and resilient workforce.
That resilience has been severely tested in recent years, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing strains on our health care workforce. Nationwide, health care providers report extremely concerning rates of burnout, exhaustion, depression and even suicide.
These problems are affecting patient care now and present challenges for attracting and retaining enough skilled health care workers to meet our future care needs.
In response, there has been growing awareness and consensus across many sectors that our health care workforce — our most precious resource — needs a helping hand of its own right now.
The AHA is committed to helping hospitals and health systems support their people today, prepare them for tomorrow and build a pathway for the future.
During the last few months, we released a three-part resource, “Strengthening the Health Care Workforce: Strategies for Now, Near and Far,” which is designed to help hospitals navigate workforce challenges and opportunities, as well as highlight strategies and resources to assist on these pivotal efforts. Broadly, our resource covers team support by addressing well-being, mental health and safety in the workplace; technological tools to strengthen the workforce; and ideas for team building, including recruitment and retention strategies.
In addition, we recently released a new resource supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist hospitals’ and health systems’ efforts to prevent suicide in the health care workforce. On our webpage, we also feature hospital and health system leaders sharing stories about the reality of suicide risks and how they are working with their teams to create hope through action.
Also, just this week the National Academy of Medicine Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience finalized the National Plan for Health Workforce Well-Being, which builds on six years of work among 200 participants, and for which AHA provided input from the start.
It has been encouraging to see more broad-based stakeholder engagement — from the government at all levels, commercial insurance companies, academics, health information technology companies, and professional and specialty societies, among others — about the need to step up and support our health care workforce.
NAM’s leadership in bringing together such a broad group of stakeholders creates increased momentum for addressing this issue … and signals that this is a high priority for the nation that must involve a collaborative effort by all stakeholders.
Our goals for restoring physical and behavioral health to our health care workforce align with NAM’s in several key areas. They include regulatory relief to free up providers from burdensome administrative tasks that subtract from time spent with patients, and eliminating obstacles from commercial insurers, such as the tedious prior authorization requirements that many providers consider a serious impediment to their jobs, just to name a few.
Health care workers are critical to a hospital’s mission of treating patients and saving lives each and every day. They make it possible for hospitals and health systems to always be there, ready to care.
It is essential that we all work together as we continue to develop resources to protect and optimize the well-being of current health care workers and future generations of caregivers.