Facing winter staffing pressures

11 November 2021 By Lorraine Gray

​Although the colder months of the year mean cosy knitwear and snuggling up next to the fireplace with a warm cup of something, it is also a period of additional pressure felt by the healthcare sector. With rising demand due to seasonal illnesses and the possibility of a third wave of Covid-19, nurses should take the time to familiarise themselves with best practice and prepare for a challenging winter ahead. As well as anticipating potentially higher cases of Covid-19 in their healthcare facility, flu and other illnesses prevalent over winter, nurses must also prepare for staffing pressures due to colleagues on sick leave and individuals needing to self-isolate.

Whilst caring for others it can be easy to forget about looking after yourself, though it is important for nurses to remain healthy and ‘bug’ free so they can continue to offer their support to our community and tackle this winter head on! Although providing exceptional patient care is your number one priority, without taking care of your own wellbeing this becomes even harder to achieve. With the help of effective planning, nurses can continue to lead a rewarding and fulfilling career by taking the necessary steps to prevent feelings of being overwhelmed or burnt out.

Factors to consider when planning for a winter in healthcare

Winter is a busy time for the healthcare industry as the cold weather impacts health, particularly for older or vulnerable people. Seasonal illnesses such as flu and an increase in patients suffering from heart conditions, strokes and respiratory illnesses mean healthcare professionals work harder than ever. Though this year there are other factors to consider when planning ahead, as the past 18 months have brought on new challenges, such as:

  • The possibility of a 3rd wave of Covid-19

Although there has been a huge collective effort to rollout the vaccine as fast as possible, the threat of a third wave of Covid remains very real. Particularly after a summer of relaxed restrictions and the effect the cold weather will have on weakening patients’ immune systems.

  • Disruption of the health and social care systems

If there is a large resurgence of Covid-19 this will have a knock-on effect on the ability of the NHS to handle non-Covid care. Additional pressure from an increase in staff sickness will also play a part in resources feeling stretched.

  • A backlog of care

Many procedures and operations were placed on hold as the NHS worked to respond to and reduce the transmission of the pandemic. Moving forward, the healthcare sector will need to play catch up to ensure patients are seen and treated appropriately.

  • The impact of Covid on patients’ mental health

Covid has had a huge impact on patients’ mental health and there will be many individuals who will be vulnerable after such a turbulent and uncertain 18 months.

How to prepare for potential 3rd wave of Covid-19

There are several steps nurses can take to ensure they feel ready for whatever the winter may throw at them! Not only will effective forward-planning make you feel confident, it will also make sure you continue to provide high standards of patient care and thrive in your healthcare career. It is never too soon to think ahead and in fact the summer is the perfect time, so here are some useful hints and tips for surviving the winter:

  • Ensure you are vaccinated and encourage others to get the vaccine if they haven’t already

  • Ensure you have adequate provision, training in, and use of PPE

  • Get the flu jab

  • Be extra vigilant with avoiding contagious friends and family and keep washing those hands!

  • It may seem obvious, but if you have symptoms don’t go into work!

  • Make sure you are familiar with new technology in your facility to help streamline your workflow

  • If you are feeling overwhelmed, seek help or additional support if you need it

  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself! This means taking the time to exercise, eat well and do what makes you happy in between shifts

How to alleviate the pressure of staffing levels

It’s no secret that existing staffing levels are low and with winter coming it will become increasingly challenging to provide exceptional patient care. As well as preparing for winter pressures, nurses should also plan for busy shifts and stretched resources by taking into consideration a number of factors, such as:

  • Trying to stay on top of administrative tasks

  • Maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing

  • Not hesitating to reach out to helplines, chat rooms or other resources if feeling overwhelmed

  • Raising concerns with senior management to ensure the safety of patients is prioritised

  • Working with an agency to find support with sourcing shifts in various healthcare settings

Prepare for winter shifts with Medical Staffing!

When faced with winter challenges in healthcare, the last thing you’ll want to do is look for your next role and stay on top of your compliance admin! When you become a member of Medical Staffing, we take care of sourcing your assignments and our expert consultants are always on hand to offer feedback and ongoing career advice so that you can continue to thrive in your healthcare career. Our easy-to-use online portal helps you stay on top of your admin in just a few clicks and we also ensure timely payment for all the hard work that you do.

Whether working in primary care or acute nursing, our skilled recruitment consultants are currently working on several opportunities and may have the right role for you.

Register with us