Tan Tock Seng Hospital – Gold Award Winner of the Healthcare Workers’ Wellbeing Award 2022

Date:  18 June 2023

TTSH Staff Wellbeing Response Team

The personal wellbeing of healthcare workers is often overlooked in the fast paced environment of large hospitals. Healthcare professionals face physical, mental, and emotional strain on a daily basis; yet, there are few safety nets and support systems available to most healthcare workers.

Knowing that healthcare workers also need to be cared for in the workplace is what led Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) to establish a Staff Wellbeing Team in 2020. Established in response to the pandemic, the Team had a common goal of maintaining morale, instilling wellbeing and hope, and helping distressed staff cope with the unrelenting stress brought about by the pandemic.

“The specific goals of the Team were to ensure that our staff get through the pandemic while our Hospital got our patients through the pandemic: this was the mission of the hospital, enounced at an early CEO Townhall, one of many communication platforms used during the pandemic.”

Adj A/Prof Habeebul Rahman, Head (Psychiatry) and Senior Consultant at TTSH.

“The team implemented regular sensing mechanisms for staff morale, created innovatively targeted interventions and had the ability to respond with agility to the significant pandemic demands to drive domains of emotional, mental, physical and social wellbeing.”

A scientific approach to wellness

During the pandemic, TTSH staff were at risk of constant burnout brought about by stress responses such as adverse events in patient care, abuse of staff by patients and visitors, and staff illness and the ever-present risk of bringing the infection home to their families. Social isolation was significant especially for foreign staff who were unable to return home and support their own families. Morale of staff was further hit by the Delta variant outbreak in the hospital, which led to quarantine of 1,000 staff with those remaining needing to cope with patient surge.

While attending to hospital staff and patients, it was also recognised that the TTSH Staff Wellbeing Team also needed to look after other stakeholders in the hospital. These included hospital tenants who depended on hospital footfall for their livelihood, ancillary staff, workers on short term contracts, and students rotating through the hospital. The Team also needed to engage with the wider community around the hospital grounds.

In response to these pressures, the Team conceptualised staff wellbeing according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The goal was to create a system not just to help staff withstand, but thrive during the outbreak. To do this, the team used a population-based approach, where various stakeholders were engaged to ensure that no one was left behind. The team also utilised sensing, brainstorming and implementation cycles for continuous improvement, and regular reporting to hospital leadership at pandemic management meetings.

“The team utilised three main sensing mechanisms. The first was a digitally enabled pulse survey rolled out from February 2020 that allowed us to track stress, resilience, challenges and real-time feedback from staff, with data extracted fortnightly to monthly for escalation to management. Common themes were addressed at communication sessions and struggling departments received additional support. Secondly, calls to staff support helplines were tracked and targeted interventions were developed, for example, addressing anxiety, personal distress and burnout. Thirdly, staff nominated as Welfare Officers from within every Department were able to raise ground issues via mobile chat with the Wellbeing Team, and Senior Management were accessible directly for quick executive decisions.”

Mr Dominic Tung, Assistant Director (Human Resource [HR] Wellbeing)

The sensing data was then shared across the Team. With their diverse backgrounds and expertise, the Team was able to create multiple interventions aligned to its goal of helping staff. Positive psychology was a lynchpin in the Team’s brainstorming, aiming to move staff towards a common purpose and meaning, whilst supporting one another.

Once agreed by consensus, ideas were carried out by smaller teams to maintain sustainability in implementation. These wide-ranging interventions included the successful Spread a Smile Movement, psychological preparedness toolkits, mobile microlearning on stress management, virtual exercise and healthy living communities, bot-facilitated cognitive behavioural therapy, distribution of morale boosters to staff, psychological debrief groups and appreciation boards where members of the community penned gratitude notes were displayed throughout the hospital grounds.

These efforts had a tangible result on staff wellbeing.

“From 2020 to mid-2021, our staff’s self-reported resilience was maintained between 5.8-6.1 (out of 10), outpacing self-reported stress (5.1-5.8). This was despite the initial uncertainty of the disease, rapid policy changes, personal impact of the disease, leave and travel restrictions, and a nationwide lockdown of 6 weeks.”

Ms Lek Jie Ying, Assistant Manager (HR Wellbeing)

Several of the services and interventions introduced over the two years have been adopted by the Hospital as best practices to maintain into the future. These include regular pulse surveys, the Welfare Officer programme which has since been expanded to the whole of hospital, and formation of Staff Care Unit under HR Wellbeing that looks into staff’s mental and emotional wellbeing exclusively.

“We are confident that our whole of systems approach, incorporating digital enablers to deliver wellbeing initiatives in healthcare will create longevity to our work, and encourage broader adoption.” 

Submit entries now!

The IHF Awards 2023 is accepting entries across 7 categories until 30 June 2023

Written by:

IHF Secretariat

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