Fresh research is guiding a new customized support program for Prudential Group Insurance clients on the front lines of treating the sick.
By Ron Varrial
Prudential’s work in the health care industry is deep and rich. Through their workplace, the company serves more than 1.6 million doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and other health care professionals. In the best of times, that means offering them life and disability insurance, retirement products and Financial Wellness programs. In the most trying times—which the COVID-19 crisis is proving to be—Prudential is there for them with dedicated support and a renewed approach to caring for those who care for others.
As part of better understanding the needs of those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, Kristin Tugman, vice president, Health and Productivity Analytics and Consulting Practice, Prudential Group Insurance has conducted a study of the current mental health needs of health care workers, and the quality of their workplace support systems. Her findings are guiding where and how Prudential can help.
“Frontline health care workers are doing all they can to treat and save the lives of COVID-19 patients. That is simply part of who they are,” Tugman says. “They are going into battle and experiencing loss and trauma every single day. And it is taking a toll. A majority of the workers in the study are experiencing anxiety, fear and difficulty sleeping. One person told me, ‘I am anxious when I am there, and I feel guilty when I am not. I feel like I should always be thinking about it.’”
According to Tugman—who holds a doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology and leads a team focused on identifying disability trends for Prudential’s Group Insurance customers—the respondents also voiced fear about a recurrence of the virus and the relaxed use of personal protective equipment, as states begin easing restrictions.
One study participant said, “We will be waiting for it to come back, wondering if we are really protected.”
These fears, Tugman says, should be front-and-center as hospitals and health systems work to support their employees through the pandemic and its aftermath.
“Health care workers will struggle to go back to normal. And to ensure they feel cared for and prepared, their management teams must continue to demonstrate understanding and support,” she notes.
Prudential Group Insurance offers a variety of tools for workers, particularly through disability insurance programs, to help them get the support they need—both as a matter of routine care and when they’re returning from a disability absence.
Based on her recent findings, Tugman is helping identify additional programs and resources to address the unique needs of health care workers. One example is a new partnership with a leading employee assistance plan to produce a mental health program specifically for health care professionals.
Providing this type of guidance to employers isn’t new for Prudential. But given the heightened stakes of the current situation, the company’s expertise and ability to look across sectors and industries for best practices is particularly valuable.
Another example can be found in Prudential’s new partnership with the American Nurses Association, to build out a customized financial wellness portal for the 3 million nurses engaging with the ANA. The goal is to help these nurses identify their personal financial challenges via LINK by Prudential and connect them to solutions such as life insurance. It’s one more way Prudential can help reduce anxiety levels, as previous research has identified a clear connection between financial stress and overall emotional and physical well-being.
“Health care workers have clear and specific needs. To maintain their mental health, they need to know they are protected, have what they need to treat patients, have peer and management support, and have someone to talk to about their experience,” Tugman says. “This study found that, given the nature and severity of this pandemic, many of these factors are not in place. So we must do all we can to provide guidance to their management teams and help create an environment that provides the mental health resources they need to effectively process their trauma and grief.”
It’s easy to think of blocks of workers in the millions and lose track of their emotions and experiences as individuals. But as one participant in the research said, their work is more than a job, regardless of the situation.
“I wanted to do this work because it’s a calling,” the respondent said. “I care for my people like they are my family. I hope my patients can still see that. We just want to do our job, we want to do the right thing, we need to feel like we have what we need to care for our patients. We are living out this trauma every day.”