Thursday, May 21, 2020

Five Actions to Promote Well-Being of Health Care Workers During, After COVID-19

Organizations must act to protect the health and well-being of health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic—now and in the future, wrote the leaders of the National Academy of Medicine Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience in an article in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“Before the virus struck, the U.S. clinical workforce was already experiencing a crisis of burnout. We are now facing a surge of physical and emotional harm that amounts to a parallel pandemic,” wrote Victor J. Dzau, M.D., Darrell Kirch, M.D., and Thomas Nasca, M.D. “Tragically, we are already seeing reports of clinicians dying by suicide amid the pandemic, including the highly publicized death of a prominent emergency medicine physician in Manhattan, the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak.”

The authors identified five actions to protect clinicians’ well-being during and after the crisis:

  • Employers should create anonymous reporting mechanisms that allow clinicians to speak openly about stressors they face and to advocate for themselves and their patients without fear of reprisal. “For such systems to be meaningful, leaders must be prepared to respond transparently and proactively to feedback,” the authors wrote.
  • Chief wellness officers should be given a powerful voice in decision-making bodies that organizations have assembled to respond to the pandemic.
  • Health systems and other employers of clinicians should sustain and supplement existing well-being programs.
  • Congress should allocate federal funding to care for clinicians who experience physical and mental health effects due to their COVID-19 service. “We need a national solution that acknowledges the scale of the crisis, and we cannot afford to wait,” the authors wrote.
  • Federal funding should also be used to set up a national epidemiologic tracking program to measure clinician well-being during and after the pandemic, preferably led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Just as the country rallied to care for September 11 first responders who suffered long-term health effects, we must take responsibility for the well-being of clinician first responders to COVID-19—now and in the long run,” the authors wrote. “We have a brief window of opportunity to get ahead of two pandemics, the spread of the virus today and the harm to clinician well-being tomorrow. If we fail, we will pay the price for years to come.”

(Image: iStock/MJFelt)

Consider Becoming an APA Trustee or Officer
Candidates and Nominations Sought

As chair of APA’s Nominating Committee, Immediate Past President Bruce Schwartz, M.D., is seeking to diversify the elected leadership of APA and invites all members to consider running for one of the open Board of Trustee offices in APA’s 2021 election: president-elect; secretary; early-career psychiatrist trustee-at-large; minority/underrepresented representative trustee; Area 1, 4, and 7 trustees; and resident-fellow member trustee-elect. You may nominate yourself or a colleague—the important point is that you get involved! The deadline is Sunday, September 1.

Access Nomination Requirements and Form

(Image: iStock/IIIerlok_Xolms)

Are You Getting Access to the Government Funding You Need?

Congress appropriated funds through the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to provide $175 billion in relief funds to hospitals and other health care professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus response. The Department of Health and Human Services has asked if psychiatrists are having trouble receiving funding from any of these funds. If you are having trouble accessing funds, we would like to know in order to identify ways to help. Please click here to fill out a short survey. Thank you.


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.