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A new program that empowers health care workers effectively strengthens well-being and resilience to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The researchers found that the program they developed successfully reduced the severity of threats to the mental health of health care workers.
The pandemic has been “a huge threat to the resilience of health care workers,” said program chief Benjamin Rosen, a doctor of medicine, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and a psychiatrist for Sinai Health staff in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
“Working at a hospital this year not only worries you about fighting COVID, but you also endure uncertainty and fear and moral anguish, which has contributed to unprecedented levels of burnout,” Rosen added.
The results were presented at the 2021 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) virtual.
Based on previous experience supporting colleagues during 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Toronto, Rosen’s team designed and implemented an initiative to support the well-being and resilience of colleagues in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Resilience Coaching for Healthcare Workers program is designed to support psychological well-being in times of chronic stress and help healthcare workers “keep their heads in play so they can maintain the focus and rigor they need to do their job.” Rosen said during a press conference.
Participating coaches are mental health physicians with training in psychological first aid, resilience, and psychotherapy to provide peer support to units and teams working on the front lines. The program provides a kind of “psychological PPE” to complement other protective measures, Rosen explained.
There are currently 15 coaches working with 17 units and clinical teams at Sinai Health, which includes Mount Sinai Hospital and Bridgepoint Active Health, both in Toronto. Most coaches support groups of up to 15 people virtually or in person. More than 5,300 employees have received technical support since the program’s launch in April 2020.
Mary Preisman, MD, a liaison psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital who participates in the program, said it’s important to keep in mind that coaches don’t have clinical relationships with health care providers, but they do apply. various psychotherapeutic tools to provide peer support. When clinical support is requested, coaches facilitate the connection with other psychiatrists.
“An excellent model”
Preliminary analysis of qualitative data, which includes interviews with coaches and providers, suggests that coaching is successful in mitigating the severity of mental health threats facing health care workers.
“The feedback so far is that training has really helped strengthen team cohesion and resilience, which has been really encouraging for us,” Rosen said.
For example, some participants said that training improved relationships with colleagues, reduced loneliness, and increased their employer’s sense of support.
Others commented on the value of the “hosts” of regularly scheduled coaches who are incorporated into the work environment.
Rosen said the program is funded by scholarships until the end of next year, which is key as Toronto is currently in the midst of a third wave of pandemic.
“One of the things we’ve learned from previous pandemics is that the psychological impact on health workers usually outweighs the infectious outbreak. There have been studies showing even years after a pandemic or epidemic has ended. , the psychological consequences that persist anxiety and distress, “Rosen said.
Information Moderator Jeffrey Borenstein, MD, President and CEO, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and Editor-in-Chief, Psychiatric news, he said the Toronto team has developed “an excellent model that could be used around the world to support the well-being of health workers who are at the forefront of a pandemic.”
This research had no commercial funding. Rosen, Preisman and Borenstein they have not reported any relevant financial relationships.
2021 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Filed May 1, 2021.