Five steps to help newcomer health care workers prioritize their workplace wellness
Published May 2, 2022.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutesIn summary:
- Burnout and exhaustion are affecting newcomer health care workers across Canada.
- They can address some of these issues through improved self-care.
- It is critical that they prioritize sleep and nutrition, manage stress, and advocate for their needs within their organizations.
The rates of burnout and exhaustion among health care workers across Canada have increased greatly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Skilled immigrants and refugees account for approximately one-quarter of health-care sector workers in this country, which means they are disproportionately experiencing these challenges. Their mental and physical well-being is paying the price. Not only does this affect the quality and sustainability of the Canadian health care system, it can lower career satisfaction and longevity for these professionals.
There are proven tactics that can help reduce stress, improve self-care and address exhaustion in the workplace.
In a previous blog post, we explored the unique mental health challenges immigrant and refugee professionals face in the workplace and share mental health supports. Read that post here.
Victoria Grainger is the founder of Wellness Works Canada, a not-for-profit workplace health and performance association that advocates for the impact wellbeing has on employee performance. We reached out to her to find out what steps she recommends for newcomer health-care professionals, like nurses or doctors, to improve their workplace wellness and career longevity.
Wellness Works Canada, which Grainger founded in 2019, focuses on the connection between employee wellbeing and employee performance.
Step 1: Prioritize adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise
The most important thing you can do, given the demands of shift work and the psychological stress inherent with health care is to practice self-care. Maintaining good sleep hygiene can include following a routine, keeping your room dark and cool and reducing screen time before bed. Get adequate nutrition by taking time to meal plan once a week. This will help to ensure you can have a good meal before your shift and have healthy snacks on-hand during your shift. Taking the time to exercise most days of the week (simply going for a walk at a speed that raises your heart rate for 20-30 minutes a day) will also help you improve your overall wellness.
Step 2: Take your breaks at work
It may sound overly simple, but it can be challenging to find the time to step away when you are concerned for your patients, As the expression goes, you need to fill your jug before you can pour yourself into the cups of your patients. You aren’t much good if your tank is empty.
Step 3: Use your benefits or fight for them
If your organization offers one, using the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is the number one support available in most organizations. EAP programs provide access to mental health resources and programs for overall wellbeing. Usage rates are much lower than they should be because often, employees aren’t aware of all the benefits to which they are entitled, so ask about them and use them.
If health-care workers do not have access to benefits (due to part-time or casual work status), they should ask for it. They can also request their employer to consider peer support groups. Speaking up about your needs helps reduce the stigma around things like compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma.
Step 4: Connect with your colleagues
Reach out to peers and build relationships with other workers. Simply having people to talk to about work challenges and stressors can help you find actionable solutions and feel heard and acknowledged.
Step 5: Ask the organization to prioritize workplace wellness
Find out if your organization has implemented the Psychological Health and Safety Standard or is aware of the Wellness Works Canada guide to healthy work culture. This can help ensure healthy practices and policies are in place to prevent psychological harm and promote positive wellbeing. It covers everything from workplace civility and respect to reducing bullying and harassment, increasing diversity, equity and inclusion, and having support and daily practices that promote positive mental health.
Grainger says health care professionals that prioritize their wellbeing will experience a better ability to set goals and stick with them, have a greater sense of self-efficacy, higher rates of resilience and better performance at work and in their personal lives. These all lead to a better ability to advocate for their own needs, a greater engagement at work, an increased likelihood of longer tenure, and the ability to set long-term goals that can help them in their career advancement.
At Windmill Microlending, we think a lot about supporting new Canadians in their career development and goal setting, it’s why we created the virtual Career Success and Planning Centre. Visit it today to download helpful resources and guides to help you progress in your career. Click here to learn more.
Some additional resources for health care worker wellness, including mental health supports, can be found below: