Worldwide, ongoing work pressures place healthcare employees at high risk for burnout, and this is equally the case for Israeli healthcare professionals. Integral to the core values of Rambam Health Care Campus is providing employees with the tools they need to deal with the daily pressures of their work.
The growing number of patients in Israel’s health system and the increasing demands on healthcare employees have led to high levels of professional stress and burnout. At Rambam Health Care Campus, the administration is determined to confront these challenges by creating a comprehensive support system for coping with daily stress.
“We hear a lot about the intense challenges confronted by our staff due to crowded wards, long and difficult work shifts, incidents of verbal and physical violence, and other factors that make the workplace a complicated environment,” said Sagit Zeevi, Director of Rambam’s Department of Social Work. “Over time, the staff experiences burnout and when you are dealing with patients, this has wide-ranging consequences. The medical staff is at the very heart of our operations, and we want them to be able to provide the best possible care to our patients. It is our responsibility to provide our caregivers with space and protection, to listen to their concerns, and to provide them with the tools they need.”
Among the resources made available to all employees are regular group seminars led by experienced professionals, information regarding practical stress reduction techniques, individual consultations at the hospital’s personnel clinic, and a unique course on protecting the healthcare staff and providing them with effective tools for alleviating stress. Led by Zeevi and clinical social worker Itay Levi, and including representatives from various sectors of the hospital, the seminars focus on awareness of chronic stress symptoms and providing tools for dealing with negative and overly critical thoughts, depression, and anger. The goal of the seminars is to reduce suffering, improve quality of life, and enhance the personal resilience of staff members.
"These seminars are a source of support, allowing participants to discuss deeply sensitive, emotional experiences and process them," explains Zeevi. In the first stage, as a pilot project, the decision was made to focus on the staff responsible for hospital admissions, where the need to interact with patients is extensive and, often, particularly complex.
Another initiative is discussion groups for physicians and other caregivers, focusing on the physician-patient relationship. These sessions are conducted under the guidance of specially-trained mental health experts, and provide participants with tools to confront the stress and pressures of the most overcrowded and challenging departments in the hospital. “This approach assists our clinicians in understanding the processes that impact the patient-physician relationship and its implications for patient care,” explains Liat Rachel Ariel, Director of the Psychology Service and coordinator of these discussion groups. “The result is a reduction in stress, improvement in professional satisfaction, and better patient care,” said Ariel.
In addition to the group platforms, Rambam also offers its employees personal consultations with psychologists and other mental health specialists at its personnel clinic. Employees can take classes at Rambam’s Knowledge Center, which offers professional training and promotion in a wide range of subjects to all medical professions. The center currently offers a class on improving mental resilience among healthcare workers, and focuses on practical techniques and enrichment sessions.
"Recently, Israel’s healthcare system suffered a staggering loss, when several physicians were unable to withstand mental illness and depression, and committed suicide," Ariel notes. "These shocking events force us to focus on the complex, difficult situation faced by employees of our healthcare system, who confront a relentlessly increasing number of patients, burdensome and time-consuming tasks, and even mounting verbal and physical violence. We are always discussing the suffering of our patients, but we must understand that the fate of our patients and their caregivers is inextricably intertwined. Who takes care of the caregivers? It is vital that we strengthen the healthcare system's employees in every way possible so they can continue to provide our patients with the best possible care.”