Help clinicians prioritise wellness by integrating it into their workflow

In the past few years, frontline resilience has been one of our most popular topics—and for good reason! Clinicians continue to be stressed, overworked, and burned out, often due to the challenging work environment.

While many leaders are making progress on this topic, one key challenge persists: clinicians and leaders know the importance of sustaining their own wellness, but they often feel they don’t have time to take a moment for themselves. Put another way, clinicians almost always prioritise patient care over self-care.

If we want to encourage clinicians to prioritise their own wellness, they need self-care tools that are quick, accessible, and fit into their workflow. We talked to three organisations that have done this well. Read on to learn how staff are accessing, utilising, and benefiting from a variety of wellness self-management tools.

Self-care at your fingertips: Nursewell Smartphone App

Leaders at South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) and Prince of Wales Hospital put wellness management at their staff’s fingertips by developing a smartphone application called “Nursewell.” The app has various self-care activities that staff can use before or after work, on their lunch break, or even between patients, including: short mindfulness exercises, 5-minute Pilates, and information about establishing healthy eating, sleeping, and thinking habits. Following each activity, users can complete a brief written reflection on their experience, which can be used toward the annual requirements for Continuing Professional Development for nurses in Australia.

nursewell app

Karen Woods, Nurse Educator at Prince of Wales Hospital in Australia noted that “In developing this app, we want to equip nurses with tools to promote their mental and physical health, but also to send the message that we recognize the pressures they face on a daily basis and care about their physical and psychological wellbeing.” To get started, leaders at South Eastern Sydney LHD and Prince of Wales Hospital used wellness survey data and external research to shape the content they offer in the app. After securing government and private funding, they partnered with an app developer to build the interface.

Initially, they piloted the app with a select group of nurses at the hospital to gather feedback on the content and user experience. Once the final version was available for download, leaders began promoting the app on a wide variety of platforms—at new employee orientation, university partnerships, conferences, and online. Nursewell can now be download globally and serve as a resiliency tool for clinicians around the world. To-date, Nursewell has been downloaded more than 4,000 times.

Moving forward, they hope to expand offerings within the app, continue improving the user experience, and track utilisation for wellness research purposes and further development of the app. Leaders of the initiative attribute the apps quick popularity to the strong buy-in from district- and facility-level senior leaders who have supported the app’s development internally and also have served as key champions of the app within the organisation and greater communities.

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Mindfulness through Virtual Reality

At Inova Health System in Fairfax, Virginia, leaders also used technology to embed self-care and make wellness easy by bringing it directly to staff. Instead of using smartphones, they brought in a completely new technology: virtual reality (VR). Staff use Oculus virtual reality goggles to experience a two-minute 3-D virtual reality guided meditation that promotes psychological wellness and mindfulness.

Seema Wadhwa, Vice President, Sustainability and Wellness at Inova Health System noted that “utilisation of wellness offerings can be a challenge, especially for busy health care professionals, but by bringing the virtual reality goggles onsite and making the mindfulness activities quick, we’ve gotten clinicians excited about using them. It gives clinicians the opportunity to completely disconnect from work, but the time investment required is minimal.”

Currently, VR experience offerings include a beach, walking amongst the snow, and floating through a nebula in space. The Muse headband is also being used to provide real-time feedback about the user’s brain activity while they experience the virtual reality. This information helps make staying present in the experience easier and keeps users focused.

Oculus VR experiences, powered by StoryUp Heal-ium XR, have been a part of “wellness bars” that InovaWell staff have brought around to different departments within the hospital. They typically let staff know in advance when they’ll be coming onto the unit, then set up the wellness bar for 2-3 hour blocks, encouraging staff to drop by whenever is convenient for them. Aside from virtual reality experiences, activities often include rock painting, planting a flower, filling out intention or gratitude cards, and crafts.

Steph Hebert, Director of Inova Well reflected on the feedback she hears from staff, “The teams LOVE them and consistently say that they wish they had a unit full-time for their department. They have said that the experiences allow them to actually pause and remember how important deep breathing can be. They leave saying they feel happy, relaxed and calm.”

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Not All Self-Care Needs Technology

Technology is great – but there’s an equal area of opportunity for low-tech, high-value wellness strategies as well. To help nurses take a moment for self-care, leaders at Advocate Children's Hospital embedded a variety of emotional support resources on the unit, including a $5 care package called the “bounce back kit.” Bounce back kits are small care packages with a variety of low-cost items that help nurses take a moment to decompress or recover from a trauma. Each kit has an overarching theme, such as acceptance, gratitude, or relaxation. The contents of the kit relate to the theme, as well. For example, the relaxation kit includes a reflection exercise, a coloring book, earplugs, and candles. The goal is to provide frontline staff with multiple options to help manage work-related stress—even when they don’t ask for help.

Kits are stored in a central location, where anyone—staff or managers—can access the kits at any time to give to a colleague in need of in-the-moment support. While the bounce back kits are a small gesture, nurses find that a few minutes of self-care can make a big difference in their stress level and their ability to bounce back after a tough day at work.

At Advocate Children’s, bounce back kits are just one part of their emotional support bundle. Advocate Children’s provides a number of unit-based resources to support frontline staff, including chaplain-led debriefs, and moments of silence.

resilience to go

What more on self-care? Check out our publication, Rebuild the Foundation for a Resilient Workforce

Special thanks to:

  • Karen Woods, Nurse Educator, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, Australia
  • Keith Jones, Nurse Manager, Leadership Initiatives, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Caringbah, Australia
  • Seema Wadhwa, Assistant Vice President, Sustainability and Wellness, Inova Health System, Fairfax, Virginia, USA
  • Steph Hebert, Director, Inova Well, Fairfax, Virginia, USA
  • Stacy Jutila, Director of Chaplaincy Services, Advocate Children’s Hospital, Park Ridge, Illinois, USA
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