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Helping Hospital Workers and Emergency Responders during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Developed By: Yvonne Monroe, MD
Chair, Practice Management Subcommittee of the Quality Standards Board & Founding Psychiatrist of MindPath Care Centers

MindPath clinicians are keeping front-line workers in our hearts and minds. We thank you for your service. We realize how much you are sacrificing. Exhaustion, fear, guilt, anger, burnout and feeling disconnected from family and friends are occurring. We want to help you with strategies for self-care.

Symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder may develop. Treatment with brief Exposure therapy can prevent this Acute stress disorder from becoming chronic. Feelings of panic can be stopped with a breathing technique. Worrying and muscular tension—or depression– that interferes with sleep or functioning can be reduced or ameliorated with therapy and/or medication. Doctors, nurses and allied health workers, such as respiratory therapists and imaging technicians, as well as first responders, who have suffered previous trauma or have genetic vulnerability for anxiety or depression are most at risk for ongoing problems.  Please also prioritize yourselves.

The following are Tips, Recommendations and Tools for you:

Resource: Managing Health Care Workers’ Stress Associated with the COVID-19 Virus Outbreak
Source: National Center for PTSD

Key points:

  • Heightened demands for health care workers during an outbreak include: increased workload; potential separation from family/friends; fears about infection to self and others; stigma
  • Preparedness can reduce stress among health care workers managing an outbreak. Specific training in outbreak-related protocols and communication/planning among staff can increase self-efficacy
  • Self-care strategies include:
    • Self-monitoring/pacing
    • Checking in regularly with family/friends/colleagues
    • Taking self-care breaks for relaxation and stress reduction
    • Practicing healthy self-talk and calibrating realistic appraisals of threat
    • Balancing acceptance vs. control
    • Connecting to hope and patience
    • Avoiding unhelpful coping strategies like substance use or ignoring personal needs by overworking

Resource: Emergency Responders: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself
Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Key points:

  • Recommendations include:
    • Recognizing signs of burnout including sadness or apathy, frustration, irritability, isolation/disconnection, feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, substance use
    • Creating a “buddy system” to check in with a colleague and monitor each other’s workload and self-care
    • Engaging in self-care strategies like confiding in others, deep breathing, sleep and healthy eating, setting boundaries where possible
    • Reminding yourself it is not selfish to take breaks, and working all of the time does not mean you will make your best contribution

Resource: Sustaining the Well-being of Health Care Personnel during Coronavirus and other Infectious Disease Outbreaks
Source: Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress

Key points:

  • Unique demands faced by health care workers during an outbreak include increased work demands; fears of infection; limited or uncomfortable equipment; managing patient distress and own emotions
  • Recommendations include:
    • Meeting basic needs and taking breaks
    • Connecting with colleagues and loved ones, and using constructive communication
    • Staying updated while limiting media exposure
    • Checking in with needs and well-being and honoring service efforts

Resource: Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak
Source: World Health Organization

Key points:

  • Managing mental health is just as vital as physical health during an outbreak.
  • Recommendations for health care workers include:
    • Resting between shifts
    • Maintaining positive lifestyle behaviors such as physical activity and eating healthy
    • Staying connected to family/friends and sharing with trusted colleagues
    • Leveraging coping strategies that have worked well in the past
    • Avoiding substance use and other unhelpful strategies
    • Be prepared for working with patients in distress or exacerbated mental health conditions

Resource: Coronavirus and Mental Health: Taking Care of Ourselves During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
Source: American Psychiatric Association

Key points:

  • Specific stressors for health care workers include: potential equipment and staffing shortages; fears of infection to self and others; managing patients who may also be in distress; stigma.
  • Recommendations for health care workers include:
    • Self-monitoring for signs of stress
    • Prioritizing basic needs like eating and sleeping
    • Taking self-care breaks
    • Staying connected with family/friends/colleagues
    • Accessing reliable sources of information
    • Honoring the service performed by self and other health care workers

Resource: COVID-Ready Communication Skills for Providers

Key Points:

Tropical Storm Isaias is headed towards the Carolinas

Tropical Storm Isaias is headed towards the Carolinas. Please note that we plan to be open for appointments; however, be aware that power outages may be widespread which may impact telehealth and other appointments. We may not know until the last minute in all of our locations on Tuesday. Please be patient. We will waive missed appointment charges on Tuesday, August 4th in light of complications from the weather. If you and your provider are unable to connect, we will reach out to reschedule your appointment as soon as possible.