The greatest resource in the health care field is our workforce. I’ve spent my entire career in health care, and the commitment, compassion, courage and skill of health care professionals has been awe-inspiring. That’s why taking care of health care workers must always be a priority for health care leaders.
Ensuring the mental resilience and well-being of health care professionals is top of mind particularly during September as it’s National Suicide Prevention Month. The AHA has a long-standing commitment to support hospitals and health systems to deliver high-quality, accessible behavioral health services, including to their own employees, and AHA.org provides many resources and tools.
Health care professionals historically have been at disproportionate risk of suicide due to long work hours and irregular shifts, emotionally difficult situations with patients and patients’ family members, plus routine exposure to human suffering and death — among other factors — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Partnering with the CDC, the AHA has focused recent work on identifying the best available evidence-based interventions to improve the mental health and well-being of health care workers and prevent suicide. Suicide Prevention: Evidence-Informed Interventions for the Health Care Workforce identifies three key drivers that lead health care workers to experience diminished feelings of well-being and psychological safety:
- stigma associated with talking about and seeking behavioral health care;
- inadequate access to behavioral health education, resources and treatment options; and
- job-related stressors.
This guide describes 12 evidence-informed interventions that address these three drivers, and also includes metrics for hospital and health system teams to evaluate their effectiveness. Teams can easily customize the interventions and metrics, depending on their organization’s needs and available resources. Nearly 40 AHA members participated in a learning collaborative to test at least one of the interventions, and several shared positive outcomes.
The AHA Physician Alliance also offers a variety of resources — including podcasts, issue briefs and case studies — to help clinicians “Lead Well, Be Well and Care Well.” There’s a direct correlation between a clinician’s well-being and that of their patients. So supporting the mental health and well-being of our health care team members makes good business sense too.
Culture change takes time. By listening to front-line team members and using the best information and most appropriate tools and resources, we can build a culture of well-being at our health care organizations. Let’s make the time and have the patience and perseverance to create a healthy environment for care professionals: They are the strength, hope and promise of our hospitals and health systems.