A recent commentary in the Annals of Internal Medicine addresses the negative physical and psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare workers (HCWs). The authors share lessons learned from observations of HCWs during the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks and summarize possible best practices to help reduce adverse effects for HCWs and promote institutional resilience. These practices follow1:
- Provide leadership focused on resilience. Effective crisis management provides a clear, optimistic vision and realistic plan; takes decisive action; and facilitates open, honest, and frequent communication.
- Structure crisis communications to provide information and empowerment. Leadership should provide the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, what is being done to protect HCWs, and what they should do if exposed.
- Create a continuum of staff support within the organization. Leaders should anticipate a surge of mental health concerns among HCWs at all levels.
These practices have been implemented at Johns Hopkins Medicine, where a unified command center was established soon after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern. Johns Hopkins has also created a confidential peer support program called RISE (Resilience in Stressful Events) that responds to calls 24/7. The program also provides in-person psychological first aid and emotional support to HCWs who experience stressful clinical events.1
The authors mention that response to the COVID-19 pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. Leaders and managers should be aware that HCWs will need increasing and ongoing support in the wake of this pandemic.
- Wu AW, Connors C, Everly Jr GS. COVID-19: Peer support and crisis communication strategies to promote institutional resilience. Ann Intern Med 2020 Jun 16;172(12):822-823.