Emotional Health: 5 Ways to Help Periop Staff Thrive & Avoid Burnout


Health equity is a mandate for every patient, but it’s also a concept to practice internally with a focus on wellbeing for all healthcare professionals. Research shows that offering wellness strategies at work can engage nurses and retain them. An established wellness program can also attract new nurses to join the team.

However, wellness should not be a one-size-fits-all approach because individuals have different wellness needs. What’s more, a nurse’s wellness needs can change depending on changing stressors, such as staffing fluctuations or taking a new position.

That’s why it’s worth taking a fresh look at your well-being initiatives to keep wellness relevant, according to three experts who shared their proven strategies for right-sizing a wellness approach at a large community hospital in Denver during a webinar for AORN’s Center for Nursing Leadership.

Their first suggestion: ask nurses what they need to improve their physical and mental health.

Through a shared governance approach with a dedicated wellness team, they surveyed nurses and other staff to understand how they rated their stress and what they hoped for from a wellness program to target and lower this stress.

The survey showed that 83% reported their typical stress level at work in the moderate to high range.

Around one third of respondents said respite lounges were welcomed, but their preferred approach would be to get wellness support on the floor. Also, in conversation with staff, the wellness team learned the importance of framing their approach in the right way. For example, they learned that words such as resiliency were not inspiring after being used so much during the pandemic, therefore, a focused conversation around emotional wellbeing could be beneficial.

Inspiring Emotional Health

Here are some wellness activities they launched that could inspire emotional well-being in your workplace, too:

  • Roam for Wellness—For busy staff working in more isolated departments, they took wellness tools to the floor with wellness staff who offered on-the-go stress reducers such as aromatherapy for relaxation and a hand-held massage gun for mobile massage. Simple mindfulness strategies such as deep-breathing and practicing gratitude were also reinforced on the fly.

  • Create space dedicated to respite—They repurposed a 400-sq. ft. space in a central setting to create a dedicated wellness lounge offering a range of respite activities, including mechanical massage chairs, aromatherapy, as well as yoga and other calming mind/body activities. The room was also designed to provide space for health coaching to help encourage healthy approaches to physical and mental health. Additionally, smaller areas throughout the hospital called “Zen Dens” with stress-reducers such as a massage chair offered other spaces to step away and de-stress.

  • Give them a stress visual—To help nurses and other staff realize their stress level, they brought in a HeartMath system, which works by measuring your heart rhythm to identify patterns indicating stress. Once a staff member got their HeartMath reading, they also learned ways to reduce their stress, such as breathing or meditation, and then got another HeartMath reading to show them in real time how the strategies can really work to lower stress.

  • Create opportunities for happiness—Recognizing the health benefits of happiness, laughter, and camaraderie to release endorphins and reduce stress, they launched several programs to support connection. For example, they created a Puppies and Pastries event that gave staff a chance to cuddle visiting puppies, sample yummy baked goods and take a break from the stresses of work for a moment. An Art Pop-Up event also gave nurses and other staff a chance to engage in a watercolor activity together.

  • Train to THRIVE—They offered a 12-week course for leaders and nurses to improve resiliency skills that created a domino effect across teams when the teachings were shared. Called THRIVE (Thriving, Healing, Resiliency, Intention, Vitality, Energy), the course is based on the principles taught by Amit Sood, MD, the creator of the Resilient Option program.

Measuring Wellness Successes

As with any intervention, tracking what works can provide data to drive continued fine-tuning through routine analysis. For example, the wellness team conducted a survey among participants who engaged in roaming wellness activities. The survey results showed the intervention was very successful with 70.5% of participants saying their stress was reduced.

Looking for more insights and data to help strengthen your periop team? Explore webinars like this through AORN’s Center for Nursing Leadership.

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