A Sentinel Event Alert issued by The Joint Commission (TJC) highlights the critical importance of supporting clinicians carrying the weight of the pandemic. “The continuing onslaught of COVID-19 is pushing healthcare organizations to their limits and workers beyond physical exhaustion. COVID-19 is inflicting emotional damage among those who care for patients,” writes TJC.
The first in a special edition series, Voices from the pandemic: Health care workers in the midst of crisis documents testimonials shared by over 2,000 healthcare professionals and explains the examples uncover three primary areas of concern: fear of the unknown, fear of getting sick and fear of bringing the virus home.
To support providers and prepare for evolving challenges, the TJC says the following five strategies must be considered:
1. Leadership commitment to cultivating open and transparent communication that builds trust and morale, reduces fears and sustains efficiency among staff;
2. Removal of barriers for any clinician seeking mental health support;
3. Protection of worker safety via the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety Hierarchy of Controls framework;
4. Adoption of a flexible workforce that, if possible, allows work to be performed remotely; and
5. Opportunity for collaboration, leadership and innovation among healthcare professionals.
A detailed review of the recommendations, as well as testimonials, are published on TJC website.
MLMIC advises physicians and other providers to pay attention to signs of distress and seek support whenever necessary. Policyholders are encouraged to review Strategies for Managing Physician Mental Health Problems Caused by the Pandemic, a blog post highlighting important TJC guidance for addressing mental health concerns caused by the pandemic. Additionally, those with questions and concerns related to their mental health are advised to call the Physician Support Line. The free hotline offers supportive therapy to help healthcare employees manage stress that is or is not linked to the pandemic. Services are available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern Standard Time by calling 1-888-409-0141. No appointment is necessary.