Our just-concluded National Hospital Week provided many great opportunities to express our heartfelt thanks to the remarkable caregivers who continue to minister to COVID-19 patients—and all patients who come through our hospital and health system doors—every day in every community across America. However, the sheer length of this pandemic can lull people into losing sight of what front-line responders are up against. We must not let that happen. Fostering resiliency in the battle against burnout has long been a struggle in our field, and COVID-19 has only brought this need into clearer focus.
More than ever, our teams need targeted help and support so they can continue to provide life-saving care. Recognizing that mental and physical well-being go hand-in-hand is a critical first step to battling the long-term effects of this crisis on our providers and caregivers.
As not only president and CEO of Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas City, Mo., but also as a physician, I’m encouraged to see so many hospitals and health systems stepping up with creative ways to support their care teams in a variety of ways that nourish their bodies, minds, and souls. For example:
Nutrition: For irregular eating due to coverage issues or operational needs, hospitals are working with local businesses and restaurants to donate meals to staff. Others provide nutrient-dense foods (fruit, breakfast bars, nuts) in breakrooms. Ochsner Health in southeast Louisiana set up a ‘pop-up’ grocery store in its cafeteria where staff can purchase essentials like bread, milk, eggs and orange juice.
Housing: Many COVID-19 responders face long commutes or worry about exposing their families to risk. Increasingly, hospitals are partnering with local hotels, universities, rental properties or Airbnb hosts to develop contingency plans in the event that there is a need for temporary housing for health care workers. Learn more at AHA’s site, https://www.100millionmasks.org/discounts.
Mental Health: Hospitals and health systems have established many kinds of counseling options and provided relaxation areas with calming music, low lighting and other amenities. Others have offered spiritual support, including prayer lines. Cody Regional Health in Wyoming has introduced a meditation space, bedrooms with private bathrooms, laundry and shower facilities, and an exercise area to meet employee needs. At Saint Luke’s, a weekly WebEx session offers a safe space where providers can share their worries, provide support and encouragement, and connect with one another during a time when so many of us feel disconnected.
The fundamental mission in our field is to care—whether it be for our patients or our teams. During these distressing times, it’s not only important to holistically safeguard the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of our health care heroes as they continue to care for others; it’s absolutely essential. Thank you to all of the hospitals and health systems that continue to show their commitment and dedication to keeping Americans safe and healthy.