By Ravi K. Raheja, MD
Due to the many hours they work and the number of patients they see, it can be easy for physicians, nurses, and office managers to neglect their own wellness. That’s even before tacking on the increased volume in COVID-related calls that many health systems are experiencing, and the mental health concerns often seen during the winter months.
All these factors reinforce how necessary it is for workers to have a means of alleviating the physical and mental stresses they experience on any given day. With that in mind, here are some of our top recommendations for healthcare staff on how they can manage theirs.
Start With the Heart
The American Heart Association phrases it best: move more. This is especially relevant to triage nurses as their jobs put them in front of computer screens for extended periods of time answering patient phone calls and offering the best dispositions for care. While they might not be able to leave their workstations frequently, there are several desk exercises that are available to them for maintaining their energy levels and staying motivated. Here are two examples:
Neck Stretch: This simple stretch helps loosen the upper back and neck muscle called the trapezius, which can ease tension, reduce stiffness, and prevent headaches.
- Sit up straight in your chair.
- Try to touch your ear to your shoulder without lifting your shoulder.
- Use your hand to push lightly until you feel the stretch in your neck.
- Hold for ten to fifteen seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Shoulder Roll: Although not a stretch, this technique relieves stress because people unconsciously hold tension in their shoulders.
- Sit up straight in your chair.
- Roll your shoulders forward ten times at a slow, consistent pace.
- Switch and roll your shoulders backwards ten times.
Get Some Sun
Chances are, you already know plenty about the importance of sunlight. It ramps up your body’s production of Vitamin D, which protects you from inflammation, lowers your blood pressure, strengthens your muscles, and improves your brain function. And all you need is five to fifteen minutes of it a day to experience these positive effects. It only makes sense, then, that physicians, nurses, and office managers take time to soak up some rays—even if it’s before and after their shift —by taking brief walks outside. This also gives them the perfect opportunities to…
Practice Breathing Exercises
The healthcare field can make you tense. It’s especially challenging triaging patient symptoms over the phone when callers are emotional or have difficulty explaining their concerns.
While nurses receive training on the best ways to manage difficult calls, they also need to take time in between those calls to breathe and reduce tension. As mentioned above, this is easy to combine with walks outdoors, but it’s also possible to do from workstations. Either location requires the same basic steps:
- Sit up straight in your chair if indoors or stand up straight if outside.
- Inhale for five seconds at a pace that allows you to fully expand your chest on count five. Try to use your diaphragm.
- Hold your breath for three full seconds.
- Exhale for seven seconds at a pace that empties your lungs by count seven.
- Repeat this process ten times, or as necessary.
It might not seem like much at first, but these exercises can have substantial effects on your heart rate and cognitive abilities.
Share the Workload
There’s a lot of turnover in the healthcare industry. Some of that can be alleviated by giving physicians, nurses, and office managers more flexibility in how they use their time. Outsourcing calls can go a long way toward freeing up in-house resources for handling immediate, in-person patient needs.
Ravi K. Raheja, MD is the CTO and Medical Director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2007, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-lead provider of high-quality telehealth services, remote patient monitoring, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. Their comprehensive solutions include integrated mobile access and two-way video capability. The TriageLogic group serves over 9,000 physicians and covers over 25 million lives nationwide.