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4. Pandemic-informed leadership for workplace psychological health and safety

The purpose of this workshop is to provide participants with pandemic-informed leadership strategies to address psychological health and safety in the workplace. Original action research, currently being led by the workshop facilitator using grounded theory on in-depth interviews with 50 health leaders from across Canada, has identified the need for leadership development to support mental health among the workforce during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The specific objectives of the workshop are: to provide participants with an overview of research findings on healthcare workforce mental health during the pandemic; to develop mental health literacy among participants; to provide participants with practical skills to support the mental health of their teams specifically, anxiety management, grief support, and both workplace and caregiver burnout prevention; and to promote systems transformation through leadership approaches which reflect the mental health needs of the whole person as impacted by pandemic stress.


Participants will be engaged through story-telling from leaders of the Canadian healthcare system during the pandemic, paired with action-oriented planning to address their personal leadership challenges as leaders through the pandemic. Activities will focus on applying evidence-based strategies to support workplace-appropriate approaches, recognizing healthcare workers holistically to include the mental health impacts of providing front-line healthcare services, and as family members and caregivers at home. Approaches we will cover include trauma-informed practice (which has been developed and refined over the past decade with significant patient and caregiver involvement), patient and family centred care in the context of pandemic restrictions, supporting bereaved colleagues (both as caring professionals and family caregivers), and healthcare workers with persistent cognitive COVID symptoms (so-called “long COVID), leader self-care, and resilience building to sustain the workplace throughout the pandemic, its aftermath, and future healthcare crises. The key innovation of the workshop will be to draw on the most relevant best practices shared by Canadian healthcare leaders as the pandemic has unfolded. The audience will be engaged in interactive discussions to apply these approaches to their own leadership contexts, resulting in an individualized action plan for each participant. 


The outcomes of the workshop will be to provide participants with a practical toolbox for supporting mental wellness within healthcare teams directly impacted by COVID-19, at work, at home, and in the community. Anticipated results include greater confidence and skills among healthcare leaders to effectively support their teams to practice compassionate care at all levels of the healthcare system, but particularly front line healthcare.  Leaders have a key role to play in sustaining the workforce throughout the pandemic and beyond. The research on which this workshop is based reveals under-recognized mental health issues, which the pandemic has exacerbated, and has identified important leadership lessons which will enhance the experience of providing healthcare in Canada and on the quality of patient and family-centred care. Transformative system change, which has not been actualized during prior pandemics, will be enabled through applying these leadership development strategies to healthcare, as the most heavily impacted sector of the population during the pandemic. 



Elizabeth Hartney - Professor (Adjunct), Royal Roads University

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