Supporting Our Healthcare Heroes: The Journey Continues
Who would have thought that we’d still be fighting the COVID-19 pandemic two years after it was first declared? When the world first shut down, our nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers were put through the fire, and throughout this very long and difficult period, have been working tirelessly to help those impacted by coronavirus. The fight isn’t over yet.
With overcrowded hospitals, long shifts, exhausting sanitization and PPE processes, and the stress and trauma that comes with navigating a global pandemic, it’s critical to recognize and support the crucial role our healthcare heroes play in continuing the fight against COVID.
As of February 25, 2022, the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker notes that there have been more than 78 million COVID-19 cases and more than 926,000 deaths reported in the United States, and more than 140,000 children have lost parents and caregivers to the virus. Although numbers have thankfully been decreasing in recent weeks after an Omicron holiday surge over the holiday season, the work is far from over.
From providing stress reduction and mental health resources and programs to simply sharing clinicians’ stories, there are many things that organizations and individuals can do to support and lift up healthcare professionals during this time.
Professional recognition and resources are critical
The American Hospital Association (AHA) has been showing support of the nation’s hard-working clinicians in various ways, including hosting “Stories from the Front Lines” on their website. This special section includes a collection of positive videos, blogs and articles from healthcare teams and communities across the United States who have been collaborating and caring for others throughout the pandemic.
One notable story features the emergency department team at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. In one of the nation’s hardest-hit areas, this group of resilient healthcare professionals has displayed innovation and an unwavering dedication to patient care even when all COVID-19 designated rooms were occupied and additional patients kept arriving. UMMC’s ED was able to put an actionable plan in place to solve logistical challenges and ensure that every patient was cared for appropriately.
Several additional stories on the site provide examples and inspiration for other healthcare organizations and how they can support their own healthcare heroes, including:
- Kootenai Health, based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, used powerful photos of its COVID-19 isolation unit to create an inspiring “Thank you, heroes” video.
- Sanford Health and the University of North Dakota partnered to launch the initial phase of Behavioral Health Bridge, a website offering a wide variety of mental health resources.
- The Kansas Hospital Association launched the “Kansas Loves Healthcare” initiative, including a website that provides ideas to honor healthcare workers and provide support.
- In a University of Utah Health podcast series, health care professionals talk candidly about caring for patients during the pandemic.
- Cody Regional Health in Wyoming created a wellness pod to nurture hardworking staff.
- Rogers Behavioral Health, based in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, launched the Compassion Resilience Toolkit with discussion materials, blogs and video clips customized for health care teams and other caregivers.
- Conway (Arkansas) Regional Health System found innovative ways to focus on the needs of staff—from delivering meals to units, to creating a day care center for health care workers’ children and setting up a relaxation room with massage chairs for staff breaks.
- Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City has been focusing on the importance of sustaining hope for front-line workers, using a nurse-led idea for "hope huddles" at shift change with ER and ICU nurses to provide optimism, closure and camaraderie.
Healthcare professionals continue to need compassion, empathy and support during this time, and one of the best ways that health systems, hospitals and other organizations can do this is to provide resources, programs and tools to help reduce stress and bolster mental health.
Butler Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island that is part of the Care New England Health System, is actively working to share encouragement and ideas for managing anxiety and stress during the pandemic. Lisa A. Uebelacker, PhD, staff psychologist, said “Life is always uncertain, and we never know the future, but that feels so much more true right now.” She talks about working through anxiety during a pandemic in a YouTube video.
Additional help for our healthcare heroes
Many government programs and professional organizations have also stepped up to help clinicians navigate the many issues surrounding COVID-19.
For example, the CDC offers extensive resources for Coping with Stress and ideas on how to Care for Yourself. The American Medical Association offers resources, tools and reading materials on its Caring for our caregivers during COVID-19 page, and the American Nurses Association has created a Well-being Initiative, with free tools and apps to support the mental health and resilience of nurses.
AMN Healthcare has also been working to support our healthcare heroes who are on assignment at health systems across the country. In addition to clinical liaisons who are available 24/7, our Employee Assistance Program has mental health counselors who can provide real-time counseling, and AMN insurance plans offer virtual visits.
Working together with our healthcare clients, we pledge to continue prioritizing the mental and physical health of our clinicians and support staff.