Organizational Strategies to Reduce Work Stress for Health Care Professionals
Work stress is an unfortunate reality of much of the health care industry. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control has been studying workplace stress for almost two decades, and many of their proposed solutions revolve around organizational changes.
Although there are steps that health care workers can take as individuals to handle heavy workloads and long shifts, it takes medical directors or other health care administrators who are responsible for institutional and organizational changes to truly benefit workers and patients alike.
NIOSH has found that health care workers’ stress results from the following factors:
- The demands of the jobs or task, particularly when there is work overload, a lack of control over a task, or ambiguity about a person’s role.
- Organizational factors, including unfair management practices or poor interpersonal relationships.
- Financial and economic factors, which can mean inadequate pay for workers or insufficient funding for supplies, staffing or other aspects of patient care, among other things.
- Poor work-life balance leading to conflicts between work and family roles and responsibilities.
- Stalled training and career development, including a lack of opportunity for growth or promotion.
- Poor organizational climate, with management lacking a commitment to core values and demonstrating a lack of communication or transparency with workers.
- The health care setting itself, with potential exposure to hazardous or infectious substances or other risks.
Organizations can work to reduce occupational stress in their workers by making policy changes and redefining jobs and roles. Some of the changes may seem relatively minor but still have a noticeable positive impact on worker stress. They include:
- Evaluating the workload to ensure that it matches workers’ capabilities and resources.
- Making sure workers’ roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and understood.
- Allowing workers the opportunity to have a voice in decisions and actions that directly affect their jobs.
- Maintaining open communications.
- Developing career development paths that reduce uncertainty about future employment prospects.
- Giving workers opportunities for social interaction amongst themselves.
- Organizing teams to work together and support one another in handling their cumulative workload.
Focusing on workers and their needs is key to successfully managing workplace stress. Be sure to listen to their concerns and involve all staffers in organizational change from the planning stage onward.