Access Now: AORN COVID-19 Clinical Support

Archive June 2020 XXI, No. 6

Staffing: Readjusting to the Reopening

Be ready to support your team during their post-pandemic return to work.

Karen Foli

Karen Foli, PhD, RN, FAAN


IMPORTANT PERSPECTIVE Understand that every staff member has been impacted in some way by the outbreak.

Many surgical staff members went to areas hit hardest by COVID-19 to lend their desperately needed skills to patients infected by the virus. Even those who weren't on the frontlines of the response efforts were impacted in some way by the pandemic's disruption of everyday life. No one has been untouched by the pandemic. Keep the following tips in mind as your staff readjusts to life in the OR to create the safe space they need now more than ever.

1. Take personal inventory

Because your staff will be looking to you for strong leadership during this time, honestly assess your ability to serve as a therapeutic listener and go-to person for your OR team. How do you feel about the stigma surrounding depression, anxiety and PTSD? Are you prepared to listen to the firsthand, individual stories of your nurses?

If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of serving as the point person or realize that you have biases toward mental health issues, that's okay. It's much better to realize these feelings than to ignore or deny them. What you can do is become an informed referral agent. A full appreciation of what your organization can offer to those who are struggling, such as employee assistance programs, and helping them connect with those services, will demonstrate compassion. Also consider forming support groups. These in-house or social media spaces may help staff receive support from others who endured similar traumatic experiences.

2. Start with empathy

Create a safe psychological space for all returning workers by establishing a strong culture that promotes safety, empowerment and healing. Mental health is rarely emphasized for healthcare workers who often suffer from burnout and compassion fatigue. If someone on your staff is struggling, listen with a tone of openness and acceptance instead of blame. Start the conversation with What's happened to you? instead of What's wrong with you?

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