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Emotional support available for healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients

When your job involves putting yourself in harm’s way every day, it takes a toll on your mental health.

CLEVELAND — Our nurses and doctors are on the front lines helping take care of patients every day. All of them head to work putting themselves and their families at risk to help take care of those sickened by coronavirus.

“Safety for me, of course, is a priority as well,” said Brittne Reeves, a nurse who works at two of Cleveland’s healthcare facilities – Cleveland’s Veteran Affairs Hospital and Lake Health. But she’s also concerned about her family’s health. “I don’t want to bring anything home to them. They didn’t sign up for this -- I did.”

When your job involves putting yourself in harm’s way every day, it takes a toll on your mental health -- many front line workers reporting feelings of anxiety and even fear.  What’s worse, they don’t know how bad the surge of patients will be at its peak.

“I’m kind of anxious just because I know in Ohio, right now, they say it’s, kind of, the calm before the storm,” said Selena Hairston, a nurse at University Hospitals.

“It’s mentally draining. Especially when some of the things we use to do outside of work to help us calm down and mentally get it together -- we’re not able to do it.”

Fortunately, Cleveland’s healthcare systems have solutions to help workers cope with the added stress.

“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.

“So we have to take care of our medical staff and ensure that they are at their best so they can provide the best care to our patients,” he explained. 

Cleveland’s three major health systems all have plans to support staff as they work during the coronavirus pandemic.

MetroHealth says the Employee Assistance Program and the Medical Staff Assistance Program offer support for our caregivers on the front lines and was in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. MetroHealth will also expand its telehealth offerings for employees.

Cleveland Clinic released the following information about its employee support system:

To support our caregivers during this time, we have established a COVID-19 emotional support line staffed by behavioral health clinicians. Any Cleveland Clinic caregivers experiencing fear, anxiety or in need of emotional support may access this valuable resource 24/7 by phone. We are committed to supporting our caregivers as we come together to support our patients, families and communities.

University Hospitals has a similar plan:

Our first order of business is the care and wellbeing of our caregivers. Caring for our caregivers includes providing them with help to balance obligations to work and family. UH created the UH4YOU program, which offers an array of information and resources for our caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. A UH4YOU support line, staffed by trained UH caregivers, is also available to provide one-to-one assistance.

Nurses here in Cleveland are urging the community to do the right thing and stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out.

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