From the Journals

COVID-19: New guidance to stem mental health crisis in frontline HCPs


 

‘Battle buddies’

Dr. Margolis recommended the “battle buddy” model for mutual peer support.

Dr. Anand, a mental health clinician at Mayo Medical School, Rochester, Minn., elaborated.

Dr. Uma Anand

“We connect residents with each other, and they form pairs to support each other and watch for warning signs such as withdrawal from colleagues, being frequently tearful, not showing up at work or showing up late, missing assignments, making mistakes at work, increased use of alcohol, or verbalizing serious concerns,” Dr. Anand said.

If the buddy shows any of these warning signs, he or she can be directed to appropriate resources to get help.

Since the pandemic has interfered with the ability to connect with colleagues and family members, attention should be paid to addressing the social support needs of clinicians.

Dr. Anand suggested that clinicians maintain contact with counselors, friends, and family, even if they cannot be together in person and must connect “virtually.”

Resilience and strength training are “key” components of reducing clinician distress, but trainings as well as processing groups and support workshops should be offered during protected time, Dr. Margolis advised, since it can be burdensome for clinicians to wake up early or stay late to attend these sessions.

Leaders and administrators should “model self-care and well-being,” she noted. For example, sending emails to clinicians late at night or on weekends creates an expectation of a rapid reply, which leads to additional pressure for the clinician.

“This is of the most powerful unspoken curricula we can develop,” Dr. Margolis emphasized.

Self-care critical

Marcus S. Shaker, MD, MSc, associate professor of pediatrics, medicine, and community and family medicine, Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, N.H., and Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, N.H., said the study was “a much appreciated, timely reminder of the importance of clinician wellness.”

Dr. Marcus Shaker

Moreover, “without self-care, our ability to help our patients withers. This article provides a useful conceptual framework for individuals and organizations to provide the right care at the right time in these unprecedented times,” said Dr. Shaker, who was not involved with the study.

The authors agreed, stating that clinicians “require proactive psychological protection specifically because they are a population known for putting others’ needs before their own.”

They recommended several resources for HCPs, including the Physician Support Line; Headspace, a mindfulness Web-based app for reducing stress and anxiety; the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; and the Crisis Text Line.

The authors and Dr. Shaker disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article originally appeared on Medscape.com.

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