In the NFL, there is a protocol for what happens when a player has any type of head injury. He is immediately removed from the field, taken to the locker room, examined by an unaffiliated neurologic consultant and, if diagnosed with a concussion, same-day return to play is prohibited. This happens automatically without question, even if it’s the Super Bowl or the player insists that they are “fine.”
A colleague has followed this format and implemented a parallel protocol to ensure staff wellbeing when employees are involved with a traumatic case outcome. Several steps are mandated including peer support, debriefing, and a follow-up meeting. These steps occur without asking – and without debate. A similar process is in place for air traffic controllers after an airline crash, police involved in a fatal shooting and in other high stakes settings.
While in most cases management flexibility is welcomed, in certain situations, prescribing a series of behaviors is actually a gift. Protocols that require wellness interventions allow staff members to receive the help they need without any guilt or shame for requesting it. It removes all the excuses for not accessing what is warranted.
In these stressful times, supervisors should consider instituting a few more “concussion protocols” to address the wellbeing of their staff (and follow them themselves!). For example, if you have worked X days or hours in a row, you must take a day off or if you have not yet been off three consecutive days since COVID began, you must do so by X date.
People feel a lot of pressure to stay in the game. Do yourself and your team a favor and remove the hesitation and stigma of getting off the field.