VHA forum showcases insights into the wellbeing of the health workforce

October 20, 2022

On 13 October the VHA hosted a forum about workforce wellbeing, highlighting practical insights to addressing wellbeing in the healthcare sector. Over 60 members from hospitals, community health, and other health services attended the forum to hear from a line-up of expert speakers and provide insight into their experience of workforce wellbeing via live polls.

Concern about wellbeing is rising

Dr Sara Holton, Senior Research Fellow from Deakin University, presented her research detailing reported levels of mental health concerns in staff working in hospitals and community health settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, Dr Holton reported a rise in mean stress, anxiety, and depression during three time points between 2020 and 2022.

Event attendees reflected similar experiences and concerns of declining workforce wellbeing during the pandemic. When asked to rate staff wellbeing at their workplace, attendees overwhelmingly indicated that wellbeing had declined since the onset of the pandemic.

Participants further indicated similar concerns when asked about the wellbeing of the broader health workforce, with only three per cent ‘very concerned’ about the health workforce wellbeing pre-COVID, which rose to 78 per cent during the pandemic.


Practical insights for health services

While acknowledging the complexity of workforce wellbeing in the health sector and the changing demands of the COVID-19 environment, speakers at the forum discussed practical examples, resources and technologies being used to make positive impact on wellbeing in the health sector.

Manager Eleanor Sawyer discussed Safer Care Victoria’s Healthcare Worker Wellbeing Centre, including resources and programs available to healthcare services to support workforce wellbeing.

Using the Institute for Health Care Improvement’s Framework for Joy in Work, Eleanor’s work with healthcare services starts with asking staff ‘what matters to you?’, and uses improvement science to test and implement approaches to positive changes tailored to individual organisations.

We asked event attendees the same question, ‘What matters to you, in relation to workplace wellbeing?’, and the most popular response was ‘feeling valued’.

The final speakers showcased an example of technology that can be used to measure and monitor worker wellbeing in healthcare services. Steven Foster, from Push My Button, presented Happy or Not as an innovation to monitor live feedback from employees and keep a pulse on wellbeing issues. Kieran Connolly then spoke about Eastern Health’s experiences with piloting the software, including positive enhancements in identifying opportunities for improvement and improved perceptions of teamwork.

Members can click here to access the full recording of the forum, along with a resource list that includes presentation slides, research, and tools for healthcare services.


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.

Click here to read our workforce-focused election paper.