The COVID-19 pandemic, and the additional stress it has created for health care workers, has prompted hospitals to look at new ways to care for their employees. The American Hospital Association, a national organization that represents hospitals and health care systems, offers these suggestions for supporting health care workers:

Mental health

The pandemic presents unique mental health challenges for health care workers, including working longer hours and confronting an unimaginable death toll, the AHA said in a news release. Under these conditions, health care workers are likely to experience increased anxiety, depression, trauma, burnout and other mental health issues, according to the AHA.

Hospitals are finding ways to address their workers’ mental health needs, including:

  • Using spiritual and emotional care services to address compassion fatigue and burnout among staff.
  • Creating internal mental health training for all staffers that goes beyond using employee assistance programs and health benefits.
  • Providing access to mental health check-ins for staff and areas to decompress.

Access to food

Hospital staffers may be missing meals and/ or snacking on unhealthy food due to coverage problems and other operational needs, the AHA said. Skipping meals and not properly fueling the body is not physically or mentally healthy. Restaurant closures, and limited hours for grocery stores, also contribute to the problem.

Here are some steps hospitals are taking to create more healthy-eating options for staffers, according to the AHA: Teaming up with local businesses that would like to donate meals to staff.

Collaborating with hospital-run or local mobile farmers market programs to provide nutritious food to staff. Many of these programs take Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and offer subsidies that would increase food access for low-wage workers. Providing snack bins in all break rooms that offer nutrient-dense foods, such as fruit, bars and nuts.