Self-care for Healthcare Workers

Preparing for a Response:

  • Try to learn as much as possible about what your role would be in a response.
  • If you will be traveling or working long hours during a response, explain this to loved ones who may want to contact you. Come up with ways you may be able to communicate with them. Keep their expectations realistic, and take the pressure off yourself.
  • Talk to your supervisor and establish a plan for who will fill any urgent ongoing work duties unrelated to the disaster while you are engaged in the response.

During a Response: Understand and Identify Burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress.

  • Burnout– feelings of extreme exhaustion and being overwhelmed.
  • Secondary traumatic stress– stress reactions and symptoms resulting from exposure to another individual’s traumatic experiences, rather than from exposure directly to a traumatic event.

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The evidence suggests that relaxation techniques may provide some benefit on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and may help reduce occupational stress in health care workers. Moreover, Relaxation techniques may be helpful in managing a variety of stress-related health conditions.

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Individuals interested in using apps to improve their meditation and relaxation techniques, or improve their ability to cope with stress, may want to explore the following, listed by the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Psychiatry, here, or visit Psyberguide, which lists a number of apps along with the scientific evidence and user experiences in support of the app.

According to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, there is evidence that yoga may help improve general wellness by relieving stress, supporting good health habits, and improving mental/emotional health, sleep, and balance.

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Interested in discovering the scientific evidence and benefits of mediation, and how different forms of meditation might change specific brain and behavioral systems? Discover the four neuro-scientifically investigated constitutes of well-being, including resilience, positive outlook, attention, and generosity.

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Facility or Provider Best Practices

Mt. Sinai support of HCW includes mental health and supportive services, such as support groups, self-care activities and confidential support along with assisting staff to meet basic needs.

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To assist healthcare workers, organizations should provide clear updates, sponsor regular town halls with healthcare professionals, and assist staff with housing, if staff are sequestered, and transportation, if needed, suggests Regardt Ferreira, PhD, associate professor at Tulane University School of Social Work and program director of Tulane University Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy in New Orleans.

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Medical staff in China were provided with mental health services, that included online courses to assist medical staff to improve their understanding of common psychological problems, a hotline, offering guidance, group activities, relaxation activities, food and daily living supplies, a place where staff could temporarily isolate themselves from their families, and the ability to video record themselves to share with their families in order to alleviate their families’ concerns.

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Online mental health services were established for healthcare workers. Communication platforms such as WeChat were widely used to support healthcare professionals by providing psychological counseling.

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Health authorities are encouraged to establish multidisciplinary mental health teams (including psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, clinical psychologists, and other mental health workers) to deliver mental health support to health workers.

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To support staff, UNC Chapel Hill has established an emotional support hotline, over-the-phone support from volunteer professionals from the Department of Psychiatry, pastoral care, etc.

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“We’re listening to them and understanding ‘what are their concerns, what are their fears?’ And looking for creative ways to support them,” said Dr. Robert Smith, director of the Medical Staff Assistance Program at MetroHealth Medical Center.

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