The COVID-19 pandemic has created many stresses that most health care workers have never experienced.

These include concerns about their own health and the health of family and friends as they take care of patients with limited personal protective equipment. There also is increased anxiety as the demand for their health care skills escalates with new waves of critically ill patients admitted to their hospital.

In times of crisis, often health care workers don’t make time to care for themselves. Now, more than ever, it’s important for everyone, but particularly those on the frontline, to take care of their mental health.

Here is what Carilion Clinic started doing, among other things, to support our clinical and non-clinical staff:

  • Created an employee-focused COVID-19 helpline to quickly connect them to needed resources;
  • Started special remote peer-to-peer sessions for front-line providers, where specially trained facilitators help with coping, adaptability and providing resources and psychoeducation;
  • Opened the Employee Assistance Fund for employees experiencing financial hardships;
  • Offered extra support through our chaplaincy services, who do rounds daily in COVID-19 units to offer spiritual guidance and deliver warm lavender towels and tea carts for staff;
  • CEO Nancy Howell Agee records weekly inspirational messages.

The AHA has compiled resources from experts across the health care field to help clinicians and hospital team members manage the daily stress and anxiety.

I encourage you to take time for yourself today. Take a look at one or more of these resources to strengthen yourself and find ways to better manage the chaos that may be whirling around you.

As Brock Chisholm, the first director-general of the World Health Organization, famously stated, “Without mental health there can be no true physical health.”

Robert Trestman, M.D., is a professor and chair of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Virginia Tech/Carilion School of Medicine and Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Va., the 2020 chair-elect of AHA’s Behavioral Health Council, and the AHA liaison to the Committees of the American Psychiatric Association.

 

 

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