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Care for the Caregiver During COVID-19 Outbreak

Care for the Caregiver During COVID-19 Outbreak

A personal message to all Washington physicians and physician assistants from WSMA President Bill Hirota, MD. Stay strong.

Sustaining Physicians and PAs During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Responding to the COVID-19 crisis is already taking toll on physicians and the health care team. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We know how critical it is that you can access the support you need and practice self-care while you strive to meet your calling to provide medical care to patients. You’ll find a collection of resources from organizations that have reached out to support you. The WSMA shares these resource links as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by the WSMA. However, if you choose to utilize resources from these organizations, we would appreciate you sharing your experiences with us.

WSMA offers private COVID-19 discussion forum for physicians and PAs

The WSMA has created a private, secure forum for all physicians and physician assistants in the state to discuss their experience about what's happening on the ground, to share learnings and help scale the knowledge about this new threat, and to have a space for community and support. Visit the forum to see what's being discussed and add to the discussion. You can share links and attachments in your posts. We encourage the open sharing of information and ideas during this time of crisis.

WSMA calls on EAPs and PAPs to address physician concerns

The WSMA has called on employee assistance programs and physician assistance programs to address the barriers that create skepticism and reluctance to use these services available through physician employers. WSMA's goal is to ensure our state's physicians and advanced practitioners receive the psychological support they need, ideally using existing resources. The WSMA has asked EAPs and PAPs in Washington state to:

  • Change the pre-recorded greeting message on the 1-800 number to clearly communicate that all calls are confidential and HIPAA compliant.
  • Establish a triage system at entry that allows people to identify themselves as clinicians at the front line of the COVID-19 response. Deploy your most highly trained and skilled staff to support this population, including the provision of cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Develop custom communication materials targeted to clinicians at the front line of the COVID-19 response that clearly explain that your mental health care professionals are equipped to help them navigate the COVID-19 crisis and that the services are completely confidential.
  • Work with each of your clients to provide just-in-time group and 1:1 sessions to frontline clinicians while protecting the health of your staff. For example, use telehealth technology to plant multiple virtual mental health professionals inside the most impacted hospitals and/or at health care provider quarantine facilities for easy on-demand access.
  • Ensure your organizations' emergency response plan includes strategies to adequately handle a surge in requests for services.

To learn more, read the open letter to EAPs/PAPs with health care clients in Washington state, issued March 17, 2020.

Child care

The Washington Office of Superintendent Public Instruction is working in partnership with other state agencies and organizations representing first responders and health care workers to use Child Care Aware of Washington as a resource for linking prioritized families to available care. You can reach them online or at 800.446.1114.

Other resources

Ten Percent Happier is building resources designed to help people cope with the rising stress and anxiety. They are offering free six-month subscriptions to the Ten Percent Happier app, no strings attached, to all health care workers and volunteers. Health care workers can click here or email care@tenpercent.com for instructions on how to get access.

Washington Physicians Health Program

Today, the Washington Physicians Health Program's support for health care professionals extends beyond just substance use, behavioral health, physical and cognitive disorders to include programs that enhance clinicians' health by reducing stress and increasing physician satisfaction. Visit the WPHP website to find resources for those needing support, learn more about stress-reduction and burnout-prevention training programs jointly provided by the WSMA and Mindfulness Northwest, and search upcoming course offerings. The WSMA established WPHP (known then as the Washington Monitored Treatment Program) in 1986. Today, WPHP is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization under contract with the Department of Health.

AMA: Practical Strategies for Health Care Leadership During COVID-19

Health care leaders can act now to provide infrastructure and planning to support their physicians and clinical care teams. The AMA provides practical guidance for health care administrators and leadership to support our clinical care teams on topics such as workload distribution, institutional policies, meals, and child care. Learn more.

CDC: For Emergency Responders, Tips for Taking Care of Yourself

Responding to COVID-19 can take an emotional toll on you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests taking the following steps to reduce secondary traumatic stress (STS) reactions:

  • Acknowledge that STS can impact anyone helping families after a traumatic event.
  • Learn the symptoms including physical (fatigue, illness) and mental (fear, withdrawal, guilt).
  • Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the outbreak.
  • Create a menu of personal self-care activities that you enjoy, such as spending time with friends and family, exercising, or reading a book.
  • Take a break from media coverage of COVID-19.
  • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that COVID-19 is affecting your ability to care for your family and patients as you did before the outbreak.

More from the CDC on how emergency responders can take care of themselves during emergency response.

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