The healthcare field is constantly changing, with ups and downs like in any other profession. However, the pressure felt among healthcare workers can be intense for a number of reasons, and the support from colleagues can help relieve some of that burden. For healthcare workers, connecting to peers who understand the daily challenges and frustrations of the profession can be invaluable.

Mutual feelings of vulnerability combined with shared experiences can help create strong bonds so that colleagues can better support one another.

Humans need social connection and support, especially during tough times. Healthcare professionals depend on each other at work, and this teamwork approach can carry over to supporting each other as well. Peer support offers you a shared perspective with a skilled response, because connecting with those who truly understand what you’re dealing with can make a world of difference.

Peers can understand the daily challenges and frustrations of the profession in a unique way, which is why they are able to lend support in tough times. Similarly, at times your peers will need your support through their own challenges. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to approach the situation. Here’s what to do when a coworker is struggling:

Start the Conversation

When you notice that one of your coworkers seems to be struggling, it can be difficult to know if and how you should offer help. Although it can feel awkward or uncomfortable, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that your peer may need help. Begin with a simple conversation and acknowledging that they seem to be having a tough time. Use these conversation starters to open the door for support for a peer who may be struggling:

  • We’ve had some rough shifts lately. Have you been doing alright?
  • Hey, I noticed you haven’t been joking around as much as usual. Are you doing ok?
  • I know you’ve been under a lot of stress lately. It seems like you’re overwhelmed. I’ve been there, so if you want to talk about it, I’m here to listen.
If after a few tries you determine that your peer is not comfortable talking or seems unreceptive to your questions or concerns, don’t force the conversation. However, do let them know you care, and that you’re available if and when they are ready to talk. Empathy and support can go a long way.

Extend an Invitation

Sometimes it’s hard to feel motivated to chat about the difficulties of work while you’re at the workplace. Connect with your coworker by inviting them to participate in an activity outside of the everyday setting, whether it be joining you for an exercise class, trying out a new coffee shop, starting a new book club together or encouraging them to consider self-care activities. Holding each other accountable will help you each reach your own goals and build your connection as well.

Build Resiliency Skills Together

Resiliency is an especially important skill to develop as healthcare professionals, since daily stresses can build up and begin to impact your daily life. Building resilience can help you adapt, cope and learn to overcome the challenging times that are inevitable at some points in life. Staying connected, building strong bonds at the workplace, caring for oneself on and off the clock and working through your feelings are all ways to build resilience.

Staying positive, building connections, and finding ways to endure hardships together are great tools for healthcare workers to support one another. Don’t forget to check in with your own mental health, as well. Taking care of your own well-being is just as important as supporting others, since you can’t pour from an empty cup!

Healthcare Workers: What to Do When A Coworker is Struggling