How Health Care Leaders Can Support Their Frontline Workers

BY: Junaid Nabi –

Health care leaders have typically pointed to resource constraints as the reason for the United States health care system’s high costs and poor outcomes. Now, as the COVID pandemic has claimed over 550,000 lives and led to over 30 million cases across a country with immense resources, it is clear that health leaders have been asking the wrong questions.

Given the prominent leadership failures in containing the pandemic, and politicization of the public health response, it is clear that health care organizations and leaders need to pay more attention to frontline workforce issues that have faced neglect for years. While COVID has led to catastrophic loss of life, it also has several important organizational lessons for health care leaders and reveals what initiatives they need to be investing in, to support the next generation of health care workers. Using recent data, the major lessons are summarized below.

Prioritize the mental health and well-being of the health care workforce

Even before the COVID pandemic, up to 60 percent of physicians reported high burnout rates, across multiple specialties. Factors ranging from administrative burdens to poor organizational management have all contributed to this collective exhaustion. It is no surprise then that the global pandemic has only made the situation worse.

Emerging evidence suggests that COVID has had a severe impact on the mental health of health care workers. This will be a challenge—both from a human resource and legal perspective—for health care leaders in the post-COVID world, and will necessitate supporting initiatives that improve access to mental health care for workers—including dedicated resources in employee benefits.