Caring for the Caregivers: Mental Health Care for Healthcare Professionals

Mental health care for healthcare professionals

Healthcare professionals have long been among the occupational groups most at risk for anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and even suicide. These same healthcare workers have been on the front lines since Day One of the coronavirus pandemic, caring for patients in overwhelming numbers and seeing trauma, despair and death on a daily basis. As the COVID-19 moves from pandemic to endemic, mental health care for healthcare professionals is more critical than ever before.

Mental health care for healthcare professionals

COVID-19’s adverse impact on healthcare workers’ well-being has been well-documented. Programs and initiatives are emerging, however, to provide mental health care for healthcare professionals, including tools and resources they need to cope during COVID-19 and beyond.

For example, Tucson, AZ-based residential treatment center Sierra Tucson has launched the Healthcare Heroes Trauma Recovery program, an initiative designed to provide mental health care for healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers under the strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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“Renew and heal”

Introduced in May, the new program offers residential trauma treatment for nurses, physicians, healthcare technicians, social workers, respiratory therapists, psychologists, hospital administrators, and others whose careers involve caring for others, especially in the midst of COVID-19.

Sierra Tucson has launched three program tiers for healthcare providers on its 160-acre campus, including a five-day “renew and heal” option focused on promoting recovery and revitalization, and a 30-day trauma healing program geared toward healthcare workers who might have had prior trauma and are now experiencing increased symptoms as a result of their work during COVID-19.

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Peers supporting peers

On the other side of the country, the Medical Society of the State of New York has launched the MSSNY Peer to Peer (P2P) program, designed to provide colleagues the opportunity to connect with trained peer supporters to confidentially discuss work, school, family or financial stressors, as well as the additional strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We believe that the MSSNY P2P program is the first such program to assist physicians, residents and medical students developed by a statewide physician association,” says Charles Rothberg, MD, chair of the MSSNY physician wellness and resiliency committee.

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“In a typical scenario, a physician or student contacts the program via a confidential telephone helpline or email (1-844-P2P-PEER [844-727-7337] or [email protected]). Stressors—personal, professional or in combination—taxing an individual’s normal coping mechanisms are often the trigger,” says Rothberg.

“The program is designed to lend a supportive ear to the peer in order to help the peer regain perspective. It is not treatment, it’s a one-time discussion with a colleague that may validate a physician’s feelings, but it might include some discussion of additional resources available to them.”

Reference

  1. Occupational Health & Safety, 2020. Accessed July 29, 2020. [https://ohsonline.com/articles/2020/05/19/healthcare-workers-suffer-from-ptsd-and-burnout-during-covid19.aspx]

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