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Care for the Caregiver During COVID-19 Outbreak

Care for the Caregiver During COVID-19 Outbreak

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.

  • Find a licensed cognitive behavioral therapist near you. Many therapists provide online and phone sessions. You can either private pay or bill your insurance.
  • Access your employer’s employee assistance or physician assistance program. Services are 100% confidential and provided by skilled mental health professionals. Online and phone sessions are available through most EAPs. Search your inbox for emails from your “EAP” or “PAP” provider for instructions on how to connect with them directly. Tell your HR department if you need additional on-site support. Important: The WSMA is advocating for steps EAPs and PAPs can take to reduce clinician reluctance to use the programs. Learn more.
  • Review the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress' Sustaining the Well-Being of Healthcare Personnel during Coronavirus.

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 (EAP) and physician assistance programs (PAP) to address the barriers that create skepticism and reluctance to use these services available through physician employers. The 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 frontline 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 theCOVID-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.

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 for instructions on how to get access.

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.

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.

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