Conferences Point Out Need for Connectedness

Insights from Nancy Spangler, PhD

This spring was a season filled with conferences. I’ve written about the NAHCPC’s conference previously, where our panel discussed the importance of caring for caregivers. Other conferences I participated in included two with a focus on the workplace, where I presented or led a panel for the American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health.

These were:

  • Integrated Benefits Institute’s (IBI) Annual Forum, and
  • HR Executive’s Health & Benefits Leadership Conference.

 

The next two meetings focused on the increasing levels of burnout specifically in healthcare settings:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians’ first annual Physician Well-being Conference, and
  • National Academy of Medicine’s (NAM) Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience.

While speakers at all of these meetings covered a wide variety of topics, a recurring theme throughout many of the sessions was the need for greater connectedness. Several people shared that their organization is using strategies like brief but frequent team huddles that enhance communication, prevent problems from building up, and give employees a chance to connect and relate to one another on a regular basis.

A novel approach to increasing felt connection amongst teams described using technology innovations to connect people in a variety of ways. For example, creative apps that direct employees to benefits and supportive resources, new systems and processes for introducing mental health screenings and making referrals to employee assistance programs or onsite counselors, personal trackers that connect people to their thoughts and physical sensations and help them regulate emotions, and an artificially intelligent chatbot that connects people with mental health support through text messaging. Emerging data from such approaches suggests these new platforms are helping to improve health and well-being.

On the other hand, at the healthcare-related meetings, speakers consistently mentioned technology as a source of stress and pressure. Requirements to use electronic medical records and to report more and more clinical quality metrics are contributing to burnout and are challenging the resilience of physicians and other clinicians. There was a sense of great frustration and even anger at the amount of time such administrative burdens were taking away from patient care or personal/family time. Some shared that these time pressures and other factors contribute to a growing sense of loneliness and disconnection from patients and fellow colleagues.

Stay tuned for our second blog in our Connectedness series in which we will discuss specific barriers to connectedness for physicians.

Join the conversation! What are some novel ways your organization fosters a sense of connectedness amongst its staff?