Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger

Ah. The COVID-19 vaccine is here. It seems to be working. So after all those months of hardship, duty, stress and fatigue, home care providers can rest easy, right? Think again.

It may just be possible that a new epidemic is lurking around the corner for the industry. It’s called employee burnout. Two speakers at a National Association for Home Care & Hospice COVID-19 town hall on Wednesday said as much.

The tremendous work of providing quality care during the pandemic under extremely challenging circumstances has come “at a cost to our staff and leadership,” said Denise Schrader, RN, vice president of integrative services for Mosaic Life Care Hospice & Palliative Care, of St. Joseph, Missouri.

Brent Korte, chief home care officer for EvergreenHealth, a home care provider in Washington State, pointed out that it is important to start planning now to address issues of staff fatigue, general exhaustion and burnout from the front line to the leadership.

“Our work as healthcare leaders really is just getting started,” he said.

What actions should providers take? He offered the following:

  • Re-recruit your team on a daily basis.
  • Acknowledge the sacrifice and burnout.
  • Support your leaders so they can support their staff.

He provided the following examples of leading during this new phase of COVID-19:

  • Do employee rounding with small groups.
  • Build in intra-team communication time so people can support each other.
  • Create a support council.
  • Develop a format for telling stories.
  • Celebrate the wins and revisit an employee recognition program.

Managing COVID-19 over the last year was more than dealing with a crisis; it essentially was wartime leadership, he noted.

If that is true, then there is another reality of war we need to acknowledge: We have to support our troops when they come home.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected] and follow her @LizaBerger19.