Year in Review: Workplace Well-Being and Psychological PPE

As 2021 comes to a close and we look back on the year, we have explored many themes, ranging from exploring the “What Matters to You” framework to building learning cultures and best practices in high reliability organizations. It all comes together to achieve the goal of providing the best patient care and creating an environment where staff can thrive. As the world, and healthcare industry, continue to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the word “PPE” has become part of our daily vocabulary. While physical PPE has become synonymous with mask wearing, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement has coined the term “psychological PPE” to describe another very important protection that employees need: promotion of mental health and well-being.

Like we discussed in our blog last week, psychological safety in the workplace can turn an adverse event into a “good catch” in the workplace. Psychological safety can also make employees feel encouraged to speak up about burnout and mental health struggles, something that we have especially seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological PPE gives employees actual options to deal with the stressors that have arisen amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological PPE has many forms and may look different for each individual. Employees may need to take additional days off to create a better work life balance or they may need time to connect with colleagues who are having similar feelings of burnout. Whatever the need is, giving employees psychological PPE will not only create a culture of happier employees, but will also lead to providing the patient with the best care.

Employees should feel empowered to speak up, and this is the  job of the leadership to make sure that staff feels supported to do so. Asking “What Matters to You?” is a tool that goShadow advocates for use in all patient care, but can be versatile in its use to improve employee wellbeing as well. Expressing empathy and humility is not a sign of weakness, but ultimately makes employees feel that they can openly communicate their needs. The pandemic has been a learning process for many healthcare organizations, and instead of reflecting on past experiences negatively or as failures, we can use those experiences as opportunities for growth and make improvements going forward. 

The COVID-19 pandemic put an unprecedented burden on the healthcare system and healthcare workers, but we can use the lessons learned as a springboard for change. To learn more about tools you can use to create a positive change in your organization download our free data-driven resources! And don’t hesitate to contact us, we are always happy to meet physically or virtually to discuss your organization’s unique needs!

Source: A Guide to Promoting Health Care Workforce Well-Being During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic. Boston, Massachusetts: Institute for Healthcare Improvement; 2020. (Available at

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December 3, 2021