Everyone's Talking About

Maintaining nurse morale in the new normal


Having recently returned from deployment to the Medical Acute Dependency Unit (along with many other members of the team deployed to critical areas during the pandemic), I find myself with a distinct lack of motivation and direction when settling back to the ‘normal’ respiratory care that has always been a passion.

Resetting from what has undoubtedly been a challenging time and reflecting on how priorities have changed is to be expected, I suspect I’m not alone.

Maintaining morale within respiratory nursing has become considerably tougher when those nurses are arguably one of the most affected, with their contribution to acute respiratory COVID-19 patients, sustaining usual respiratory care and possibly playing a part in post-COVID syndrome services.

Many of us have had to face new challenges, a recent survey found that 1 in 5 people have experienced a deterioration in their mental health and well-being.[1] This in turn can cause strain in daily life. Juggling caring commitments, financial pressures and more, make this an incredibly stressful time.

As we emerge from the pandemic and look towards what the ‘new normal’ may be, we might be wise to consider how to achieve that much discussed work / life balance, if there really is such a thing.

Morale and well-being are intrinsically linked, with low staff morale having serious impacts upon the health and wellbeing of staff and as a result, placing patients at risk of lower quality care and potentially adverse clinical outcomes.[2]

Managers now must decide if it’s possible or appropriate to return to pre-pandemic ways of working, or if there needs to be a way of retaining some of the new ways of working that have been discovered over the past 12 months.

Of course, safety and well-being must continue to be the priority in healthcare. However, these new ways of working could have had a negative impact on teams unable to spend time ‘at the office’ together, share a team meeting or have interactive face to face teaching.

How does this affect new team members? How can staff be mentored, supported, instructed, and coached when the continuing message is to reduce the interaction they have with each other and senior support?

A disparate team could have an impact on morale which in turn is likely to have an impact on team productivity. However, a more relaxed approach to working from home may suit many – the challenge is how to balance the two.

Throughout this period, many employees have had to juggle different areas of their lives – being re-directed to COVID-19 wards as well as the closure of nurseries and schools. Anyone with caring commitments has found it difficult to adhere to strict personal restrictions and working practices. However, creating and maintaining flexibility with employees, where possible of course, can be a big boost to the productivity and morale of staff.

For some, the regular video calls, quizzes, and end of week/month drinks will have been highly beneficial and vital for morale and wellbeing. Try to continue this engagement and don’t just assume that everyone will have their own activities planned with family and friends. Instead, maybe look to arrange some outdoor team meet-ups or a team picnic to get colleagues back together – whilst adhering to the current regulations and if the weather allows, of course!

Clinical supervision at this time could be considered vital to provide a forum where staff can discuss, problem solve and reflect on how their working life has changed for the foreseeable future. Encouraging contribution from staff in evaluating different aspects of working practice, welcoming new ideas and setting dates for national healthcare events will have a positive effect and restore their mojo – and yours.

The best solutions for improving morale and mental health in the workplace are often the simplest. Offering a safe and confidential space for staff to talk is fundamental in helping address these issues. It contributes to removing the stigma surrounding mental health being discussed in the workplace.

Some staff who have really struggled during this time may also benefit from professional advice. Employers can help provide support by pointing their workers in the direction of counsellors or mental health practitioners. Accessing these resources within the NHS can be done via Our People NHS. You may also find the Mental Health Toolkit here on Together in Respiratory helpful.

Make sure you have procedures in place to touch base with all staff – it’s easy for someone to slip under the radar. Implement working practices that encourage staff to meet in small groups and promote an open and approachable workplace, allowing staff to chat about how they are feeling.

Finally, supervision and 1:1’s are a ‘kind but clear’ way to set expectations and allow staff to feedback on what helps raise and maintain their morale. And of course, encouraging regular leave to have time away from the workplace, is equally as important.

[1] Levels of resilience, anxiety and depression in nurses working in respiratory clinical areas during the COVID pandemic N.J. Roberts et al, Respir Meicince 2021. Available at: https://www.resmedjournal.com/article/S0954-6111(20)30359-0/fulltext. Accessed April 2021.

[2] Day, G et al. Australian Health. 2006; 30: 516-24.

Any advice given and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the view of Chiesi Limited (Chiesi).  All content in this article is for informational and educational purposes only.  Although Chiesi strives to always provide accurate information, it is not responsible for and does not verify for accuracy any of the information contained within.

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UK-RES-2100674 April 2021