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December 16, 2020

Striking a balance during the holidays

For all of us, the heightened bustle of the holidays can sometimes feel like a whirlwind - gatherings to plan, gifts to wrap, traditions to uphold and the list goes on. But for physicians and advanced practice providers, the priorities that crowd our plates every year are on their minds as they still answer the call to heal.

This year, there’s no doubt the holidays will look different. Now, on top of the usual juggle between their own holiday agendas and roles as a provider, they’re also on the front lines in an ongoing pandemic.

It’s more essential than ever this season that you’re intentional about striking a healthy balance for your present and future hires, and for yourself as a recruiter. Ensuring this not only helps your health care heroes avoid burnout and other issues, but it also helps you stay focused on being the best possible recruiter as you acquire top talent for your health system.

Balance for your hires

Apart from the pandemic and holiday seasons, the American Medical Association points out that physicians already experience year-round burnout more frequently than other professions, which can have drastic symptoms if not addressed.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has found rates of physician suicide are nearly double than that of the general population - 1.41 times higher in male physicians, and 2.27 times higher in female physicians.

These risks are even more pervasive when external factors, like large patient influxes, add to a physician’s stress and workload. In regions like New York, emergency departments see a 5-10% patient increase over the holidays, according to a 2017 Business Insider article. For already exhausted workers, these seasonal spikes in patient numbers can be especially overwhelming.

Additionally, over the past several months, physicians have been under even more stress as they treat COVID-19 patients and feel the pandemic’s operational and financial impacts on their health systems. According to the Society of Critical Care Medicine, a survey "of nearly 9,500 critical care providers showed that median self-reported provider stress has increased from a score of 3 to a score of 8" during the pandemic.

So, what happens when holiday pressure, a global pandemic and the ever-present risk of physician burnout are all occurring at once? What can you do as a recruiter to minimize burnout among your health care workers and encourage some semblance of balance?

Help your physicians fight burnout during the holidays

  • Know the signs of physician burnout
    • The signs of burnout aren’t always clear and can vary by individual. Be sure you’re actively educating yourself, your fellow recruiters and other leadership at your organization about what to notice, as well as how to prevent burnout. Look for opportunities to make resources - such as in-house counseling - accessible to your staff.
  • Encourage your physicians to take time off to focus on their well-being
    • Physicians know their profession comes with the possibility of working over the holidays, but like everyone else, they need to recharge and spend quality time with their loved ones. If and when patient volume allows for more relaxed or staggered schedules, encourage personal reprieves for your providers to refresh and refocus.
  • Keep an eye on your hires - and the type of shifts they’re taking
    • Surrounding the holidays, it’s possible some physicians will opt for more moonlighting shifts to allow more flexibility during the day with their families. Remember the moonlighting approach doesn’t always work for everyone, so you’ll want to ensure that providers showing signs of being burnt out are avoiding these shifts or excessively long hours.
  • Check in with your hires and those you’re currently recruiting
    • Some individuals will have a harder time than others speaking out when they’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, especially if they’re a new hire. That’s why touching base regularly and inviting an open dialogue about how they’re really feeling during this time is especially important. Remember retention begins after the hire; continue to make an effort to help your prospects and staff know they’re heard and seen.
  • Celebrate the victories
    • When times are strenuous, validation and positive feedback can go a long way. Low morale shouldn’t be a constant theme among your team. Provide them with encouragement, affirmation for their efforts and, above all, gratitude. Thank your candidate for their time, sacrifices and dedication to healing your organization’s patients. Appreciation can be surprisingly restorative.
  • Be aware negative patient outcomes can impact your physician
    • Negative patient outcomes can wear on a provider. If your health system has been seeing a large number of deaths, or critical scenarios related to COVID-19, be aware that health workers feel the impact strongly. Pay attention to the experiences your hires are having with patients so you can empathize and better assess their risk for becoming burnt out.
  • Ask what you can do for your prospects or present hires
    • Aside from simply checking in with your team and staff, you can ask them what they need from you to be successful as they practice during this time. For those you haven’t hired yet, you can similarly ask what they would need from you in order to feel confident and prepared enough to begin work.

Continuing to recruit during the holidays    

Help your hires refuel and feel refreshed during busy times            

If you notice candidates you’ve been engaging are starting to lose touch as the holidays approach, you can still reach out to restore that connection. Even if you plan to take some time off with your family or loved ones, let prospects know you’ll be out of office for a certain amount of time, but you’re looking forward to chatting again as soon as you return. Another option is to provide contact information of a colleague who may be taking over recruitment processes while you’re away. This doesn’t just put another holiday e-card in their inbox; it reminds them you value your connection enough to ensure it feels more human than an impersonal and predictable script.

Even if you’re planning to maintain business as usual during this time, sending a personal note to touch base and ask candidates about their job search will be memorable and valued.

Communication is key to developing balance. You’ll want to be aware of your candidates’ concerns as they’re looking down a particularly uncertain path. Ask questions about their concerns, expectations and considerations when it comes to accepting or nearing an offer right now.

Finding your balance

Although you may have had expectations about how your recruitment processes would look at the beginning of 2020, this year has placed strategy secondary to adaptability. Despite new challenges and steps, you’re still seeking to fill positions at your organization, and there have probably been times when it has been exhausting to keep up with constant changes.

As you approach one of the busiest seasons alongside the pandemic, remember to give yourself acknowledgement for the obstacles you’ve overcome to fulfill your role during this time. Celebrate your own victories and those of your fellow recruiters.

You want to be at your best when seeking talent for your health system and working to retain those already within your community. To do that, it’s crucial that you’re caring for yourself and paying attention to what your body is telling you. Just as you would encourage your physicians to do so, take breaks when you need them, give yourself space to recharge, and spend time with family whenever you can during the holiday season.

Your poise, mindset and attitude as a recruiter is especially influential and even transmissible to your prospects and team members. Make sure you’ve tended to your well-being so you can help exemplify the healthy and balanced environment you aim to establish for your hires, staff and fellow recruiters.

Read PracticeLink articles by Alexandra Cappetta

Alexandra Cappetta

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