HealthLeaders: How to Establish Coronavirus Employee Wellness Support Teams at Hospitals
By Christopher Cheney
As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic threatens to surge hospital patients in Missouri, Children's Mercy is launching initiatives to support the wellbeing of the organization's employees.
Kansas City, Missouri-based Children's Mercy established its COVID Employee Wellness Support Team to address a pressing need during the coronavirus pandemic, says Jennifer Bickel, MD, a practicing neurologist and COVID employee wellness officer at the hospital.
"The wellbeing of our caregivers is directly related to the wellbeing of our patients. There have been repeated studies showing that when healthcare providers—whether they are physicians or nurses—have problems with depression or burnout they are more likely to make safety errors and less likely to engage in a meaningful way with the patient," she says.
The wellness initiative is designed to formalize efforts to support the wellbeing of staff members during the coronavirus pandemic, Bickel says. "For everybody who goes into healthcare, one of our biggest callings is to be able to take care of people, and many of our colleagues are being drawn into taking care of each other. So, by developing the COVID Employee Wellness Support Team, we were able to develop an umbrella for how our employees can support each other."
HOW WELLNESS SUPPORT TEAM WORKS
Bickel says the COVID Employee Wellness Support Team features two dozen psychologists, clinical social workers, chaplains, and hospital leaders who have launched several initiatives.
- Clinical specialty teams can set up virtual support groups
- Mental health professionals can meet with employees one-on-one virtually or in-person to help them cope with fear, anxiety, and managing change
- The Ronald McDonald Respite Room in the hospital is available to all employees from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. to provide access to food, aromatherapy patches, meditation services, workout equipment, and wellbeing support services
- Hospital mindfulness experts are leading employees through virtual guided meditation three times per day
- A 10-minute meditation is conducted at the start of a daily COVID-19 planning call attended by about 100 hospital leaders
- All of the hospital's information on wellbeing has been placed on a single web page that is available to the entire staff
- Psychologists, social workers, and chaplains are conducting wellness rounds in the hospital emergency department and the neonatal intensive care unit
Planned initiatives include expanding respite rooms beyond the main hospital, offering one-on-one counseling sessions to affiliated community physicians, and conducting an American Medical Association COVID-19 wellness survey.
Senior leadership was the key to creating the COVID Employee Wellness Support Team at Children's Mercy, Bickel says.
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Learn more about the COVID-19 response at Children's Mercy