Member forum: focus on workforce wellbeing
October 3, 2022
On Thursday 13 October (from 10-11.30am), the VHA is hosting a forum to provide insight into approaches for measuring and supporting workforce wellbeing in hospitals and community health services.
While the healthcare sector continues to respond to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, this is an opportunity to reflect on workforce wellbeing and learn from research, technology innovations, and services on the ground. We invite members to join us for this solutions-focused forum which will include short presentations, a panel discussion, and live Q&A, with a resources kit to be sent to attendees after the event.
- Dr Sara Holton, Senior Research Fellow, Deakin University
- Eleanor Sawyer, Manager, Healthcare Worker Wellbeing Centre, Safer Care Victoria
- Steven Foster, Director Sales and Marketing, Push My Button
- Kieran Connolly, Deputy Director, Research and Workforce Development, Turning Point and Spectrum, Eastern Health
Psychological distress and burnout
Healthcare workforce shortages, which existed before the pandemic, have worsened with furloughing due to COVID-19, and increasing rates of burnout.
‘We can’t just keep asking healthcare workers to “keep on going” when we know this won’t be the last wave of COVID’, said VHA’s Head of Policy and Advocacy, Juan Paolo Legaspi, upon the release of the most-recent Victorian Health Services Performance report which showed the number of ED presentations and ambulance code 1 callouts for April to June 2022 were the highest on record.
‘This data shows we are in an unprecedented era of intense demand. Our health workforce is under high pressure all the time. It’s unsustainable. Unless we bring in a lot more workers to reduce this burden quickly, we’re at risk of losing staff faster than we can recruit or train them,’ Mr Legaspi said.
Preliminary findings from a Eastern Health and Deakin University study assessing the mental health and wellbeing of Victoria’s frontline healthcare workers confirmed that psychological distress and wellbeing are at concerning levels, highlighting that COVID-19 worries and relationship stress remain strong predictors of distress.
From January to March 2022, this study surveyed 180 Australian healthcare workers across emergency departments, intensive care units, COVID wards, hospital in the home, and aged care. Findings from the preliminary analysis include that the prevalence of psychological distress and poor wellbeing remained high during the survey period (at similar rates found six months’ prior), and four in five workers had experienced sleep disturbance in the past two weeks that affected either their occupational or personal life.
Meanwhile, an earlier study, undertaken by Deakin in collaboration with the VHA, revealed the pandemic was having a considerable impact on the psychological wellbeing of Victorian community health service workers. A survey of 479 such staff in September and October 2021 found one in four reported moderate to extremely severe symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress. This was up from one in 10 reporting such symptoms when 681 completed the same survey in March and April of 2021.
Supporting our healthcare workforce
The health and wellbeing of healthcare workers remains paramount and policy solutions which address workforce issues holistically are required. In addition to calling for the Commonwealth Government to cut red tape for international recruits, ahead of the November Victorian election, the VHA has been advocating for the state government to create a workforce strategy and recruitment campaign to urgently attract more health workers both locally and from overseas.
Our State Election Platform highlights further workforce initiatives to support and lift the entire Victorian health system: we want the next state government to increase and expand Victoria’s ‘full scope’ workforce programs to ensure clinical skills and expertise are used in the most effective way, while introducing greater flexibility across public and community health workplaces would alleviate pressure on our health system and also improve workforce wellbeing.