Mercy Health employees get 'emotional PPE' to manage stress

Posted at 4:01 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 20:08:22-04

COVID-19 has demanded so much of our frontline workers. The risks are physical as they tend to the very sick, and emotional when families can't be there because of quarantine issues. Frontline workers sometimes help loved ones say goodbye.

That's just a partial snapshot of the overall toll this epidemic can have on frontline workers. It’s why the Mercy Health medical system wants to help employees take care of their own emotional well-being.

Mercy Health’s partner, Bon Secours Health System, started something called "the pause" -- a twice daily dose of calm that can help not just frontliners -- but all members of the work family.

Bon Secours Mercy Health System medical director of behavioral health Dr. Carson Felkel said the toll COVID-19 takes on healthcare workers isn’t lost on anyone.

“This was a sprint and it's turned into a marathon, and we're all human and at the end of the day we're asked to deliver care constantly,” Felkel said.

According to Herbert Schumm, vice president for medical education and physician engagement at Mercy Bon Secours, breaking up the routine of care is important for the caregiver.

“We identified that people needed five to six minutes to step away from the routine. Take a deep breath, center themselves,” Schumm said.

Mercy Bon Secours is asking employees to take that moment of balance using “The Pause” -- a twice daily video break on their internal employee website that includes guidance and self-care strategies to frontline COVID-19 workers.

More broadly, “The Pause” is also available to system employees working from home and looking for ways to fight isolation and connect -- even if they're not in the same building.

Felkel said the peer support is like another layer of protection for frontline workers.

“I think we have to develop this concept of emotional PPE,” Felkel said.

Some 2,500 employees have clicked into “The Pause,” including Jennifer Stefanak in Youngstown.

“Most departments have a huddle everyday, and we've heard managers are using that in the huddle,” Stefanak said.

It’s about mindfulness, and it’s something anyone can do. The Mercy Bon Secours health people said it’s important for anyone feeling the stress of the pandemic to stop -- take a break -- and reflect. It’s important to take time to center yourself.