When Covid-19 reached Singapore’s shores, doctors and nurses soldiered on to treat infected patients. They endured long working hours under plasticky gowns and tightly-fitted masks, separated from their loved ones, coping with the mental strain of constantly changing protocols.

Burnout and mental health issues among frontline workers require pressing attention. “Staff cancel weddings and stuff like that just to be on the ground. So we need to support them,” says David Hendrick, Director, People Development, Centre for Healthcare Innovation, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

He spearheaded the development of TTSH’s microlearning platform, which provides bite-sized training modules to hospital staff. GovInsider spoke to him to find out how the platform has supported employee wellbeing during Covid-19.

Support mental and physical wellbeing

The microlearning platform was launched in September 2019, Hendrick says. His team saw a need to change the way learning was carried out, as healthcare workers are pressed for time.

Hendrick’s team decided to host bite-sized training modules on Uleap, a mobile learning application. Each module takes about 15 minutes to complete, and TTSH’s staff can complete them on-the-go, he adds.

This came in handy when Covid-19 hit. About 80 per cent of courses in TTSH were conducted face-to-face previously, and that has been halved to about 40 per cent. The microlearning platform allowed the hospital to quickly push out new modules and address pressing challenges, such as preventing employee burnout.

The Welfare Officer Programme was built by psychiatrists for TTSH’s network of over 150 welfare officers, Hendrick says. It comprises five modules that teach officers how to manage suicidal ideas and difficult situations, and use active listening to provide emotional support.

WorkSAFE, a 4-part microlearning program, trains nurses on the best practices in dealing with violent and aggressive patients.

These modules ensured that staff had the emotional and mental support they needed, Hendrick says. “This also translated to surveys where people felt this was very helpful.”

Push out urgent information quickly

Covid-19 also required hospital staff to be trained quickly on changing guidelines and procedures. A series of six Covid-19 related modules were published on the platform around February to March, says Hendrick.

They had videos and slideshows training staff on how to don and remove personal protective equipment, and how to properly collect swab specimens. The content is created by doctors in the relevant departments, says Hendrick.

Alongside the online sessions, a trainer supervises staff members in teams of six. That allows them to practice the relevant techniques, and there is also a mini test before they are certified, he adds.

Hendrick’s team wants more hospital staff to be involved in creating courses, and has set up a programme on the app to show them how. Department heads check the content being shared by their teams, and Hendrick’s team follows up with more coaching and fine-tuning.

He hopes the platform will give staff personalised recommendations in the future. The team is also in discussion with the Institute for Adult Learning to micro-credential their programs, he shares.

As some countries battle a second, or even third, wave of Covid-19, medical professionals are battling stress and trauma every day. Countries must give them the mental health support and care they need.

Image of Hendrick by Tan Tock Seng Hospital