Living through the COVID-19 pandemic is a stressful time for both healthcare professionals and the general population alike. While the best way to flatten the curve is to practice social distancing, the time apart from loved ones can be quite challenging for many.
According to the CDC, people who might respond more strongly to the stress of this crisis include older populations, children and teens, first responders and healthcare professionals, and people with preexisting mental health conditions. To assist people during this difficult time, several organizations are extending mental healthcare and support to patients as well as their staff.
To help patients cope with the stress related to this pandemic, several organizations have established helplines, where patients can call to share their concerns with experts and trained counselors. For instance, the Nebraska Methodist Health System is offering an emotional support line for patients experiencing fear, anxiety, depression, or sadness. Patients can call daily from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm to connect with licensed professional counselors. Follow-up appointments can be scheduled for additional care if necessary.
Similarly, the National Alliance on Mental Illness also has a helpline that patients can call to receive emotional support. The organization also published an information guide, which patients can access to learn about support during the COVID-19 crisis.
Additionally, several organizations such as the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health list resources on their websites for helping populations cope with the coronavirus.
For Providers and Other Healthcare Staff
According to a recent resource published by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, major stressors for healthcare workers during this outbreak include the need for adherence to biosecurity measures, the risk of disease transmission, increased medical and personal demands, stigma associated with the virus, and the self-stigma on voicing their personal concerns. Recognizing these concerns, several health systems and other organizations are expanding mental health support to healthcare personnel to help with their mental well-being.
The American Medical Association recognized the increase in workloads for front-line providers and shared several resources for addressing providers’ concerns. One of the most important strategies is better workload redistribution. Some organizations have started to ensure the availability of staff for alternate sites and call upon previously retired clinicians to help with the influx of patients. AMA created a list of resources to help previously retired doctors reenter the workforce and linked to planners for hospitals, including a hospital staffing needs calculator developed by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Michigan Medicine’s Center for Surgical Training and Research (C-STAR) and Department of Learning Health Sciences, and the Procedural Learning and Safety Collaborative (PLSC).
At UW Medicine in Seattle, staff are provided with an opportunity to set up informal telephone conversations or videoconferences with their peers to address any feelings of increased stress and anxiety due to COVID-19. UNC Health also established a similar mental health and emotional telehealth support program for its providers to encourage them to practice self-care.
Helping to address mental and emotional concerns is crucial to ensure a comprehensive management of this crisis. Reaching out to organizations for support and encouraging patients and staff to utilize these resources can help healthcare organizations better manage their well-being during these overwhelming times.
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