3 ways hospital leaders can support staff during traumatic events

Care team

Traumatic events--including senseless acts of violence like mass shootings and assassinations--can bring up powerful emotions that may not be put aside when staff come to work. Strong leaders can help their employees navigate such trying times, according to an article published by Harvard Business Review.

Hospital staff are at risk for emotional stress during such incidents, as victims of attacks are rushed to the facility for treatment. In Orlando, Florida, following the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, clinicians at the Orlando Regional Medical Center had to jump into immediate action as 44 shooting victims were brought into the emergency department, FierceHealthcare previously reported. And last week hospitals in Dallas had to prepare for the worst when a mass shooter killed five police officers and injured seven others.

The death toll in the Orlando shooting would certainly been higher had the hospital been unable to handle the influx of patients, FierceHealthcare reported, a hefty weight of stress for clinicians and other staffers to bear.

“A leader sets the emotional tone and example--in good times and perhaps more importantly in bad,” writes Jennifer Porter, the managing partner of Boda Group, in HBR. Here are three ways she suggests hospital leaders can help mitigate the emotional stress of a traumatic situation:

  • Don’t hide your own emotions. Emotional intelligence is important for effective leadership, according to the article, as it allows for leaders to understand and navigate the emotions of employees. Healthcare workers who constantly repress their feelings are also at risk of increase blood pressure and asthma. 
  • Promote psychological safety for your staff. Even in day-to-day work, this can promote efficiency and high performance among clinicians and other staff, according to the article, making it even more imperative in a high-stress situation. Check in with team members, even if it’s just long enough to ask how they’re doing, and make it clear that it is acceptable to share what’s troubling them or what they’re thinking. 
  • Use such incidents as springboards to improve behavior at your facility. Porter notes that these traumatic situations can promote and improve the culture at your hospital. For instance, she spoke to a CEO who was motivated by recent violence to champion and strength diversity and inclusivity at his company.

- here’s the HBR article