Safeguarding staff safety and well-being amidst the pandemic

Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals launched a project to engage and train staff during the pandemic – it not only led to improved morale among their employees, but also higher patient safety and satisfaction

 Protecting staff equates to protecting patients – that has been one of Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals’ key focuses since the start of the pandemic.

Staff at this Delhi hospital began facing immense physical and psychological stress when the virus began spreading in India in April last year. “Leadership realised that employees were leaving the organisation, and many were not reporting to work,” said the hospital. “The overall safety culture of organisation was getting impacted.”

Hospital leaders were conscious that they needed to quickly address this issue of staff apprehension and burnout – not just because patient safety was at stake, and also because healthcare workers were valued members of the organisation.

The assurance that “We Care”

It was clear that something had to be done to improve staff motivation, reduce anxiety, and assure employees of their safety when they come in to work.

apollo training
Training sessions

As such, the “We Care for Our Warriors” project was launched in April 2020 as a series of employee training and well-being initiatives. Information education communications (IEC) activities, in terms of retraining sessions and daily focused learning, focused on improving staff expertise and compliance in safety measures. Being familiar with the comprehensive safety protocols in place also helped to calm staff anxieties about their safety at work.

Member handbook
Handbook on COVID-19 guidelines

In addition, a handbook on COVID-19 guidelines, along with timely updates on the latest developments surrounding the pandemic helped provide clear guidance to staff on what needed to be done.

To promote the mental well-being of their staff, the hospital organised spiritual sessions, while a short film contest was also held to challenge staff to be creative and produce a video on COVID-19 precautions. Besides being a fun project to work on, the video contest also served as yet another way of reiterating COVID-19 protocols to employees in the hospital.

Team effort

Embarking on such efforts amidst the pandemic definitely came with challenges. There was the issue of manpower shortage, while the hospital also had to pivot to rolling out activities virtually, or in smaller settings, due to social distancing requirements. The use of new technologies was a major change that had to be cascaded across the hospital.

The hospital noted that a combined effort of leadership – across the Managing Director, Director of Medical Services, Head Human Resource and Head Nursing – drove the development and implementation of this initiative. A strong team effort from the training cell, which created customised training modules for different departments; IT department for technology requirements; and infection control and quality departments which led training activities, were crucial.

For other hospitals looking to kick-start their training or engagement projects, the hospital recommends that “a ‘top down approach will be a better way to start’, and that a survey or analysis should be done first to identify problems or employee pain points.

Improved staff motivation and patient satisfaction

The hospital observed several visible results from the project. Firstly, there was a significant reduction in absenteeism from work, with fewer staff reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression. Staff showed more motivation and enthusiasm in battling COVID-19, and had less fear of getting infected by the virus. The hospital also witnessed a constant decline in the number of infected staff from May to September 2020.

A checklist-based audit of different hospital areas showed improved compliance with safety protocols, up from 70% in April to 98% in September, confirming the effectiveness of the training sessions.

In addition, the consumption of PPE was reduced from 46 to 22 per COVID-positive discharge, as monitored daily and monthly by materials department. This represented huge cost savings for the hospital, and was mainly due to an increase in efficiency in the use of PPE – staff expertise on donning and doffing techniques improved – as well as clinical and evidence-based protocols being updated regularly and promptly.

All in all, the project demonstrated the link between motivated staff and satisfied patients, with the boost in staff morale coinciding with an overall improvement in patient satisfaction and feedback scores.

For its achievements in staff management and upskilling, the “We Care for Our Warriors” project was awarded with the 2020 Asian Hospital Management Awards Gold Award in the Talent Development category.

Article submitted by Dr Arpita Malani, Quality Department, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, India

Submissions for the Asian Hospital Management Awards (AHMA) 2021 are open from now till 30 July 2021. If your hospital has launched any innovative or significant initiatives over the past year, submit them at this link now!