Many health workers have reported that mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and burnout have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Division of Consultation Liaison Psychiatry have developed a service which aims to prioritise employee health and wellness during the pandemic.
The Division of Consultation Liaison Psychiatry developed a Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) Wellness Team which aims to support individual and departmental well-being by providing on-site individual and group counselling as well as off-site individual group counselling, managerial support and family members support.
The Wellness team has facilitated groups within departments, supporting both medical and nursing staff. The aim of these groups is to provide a containing and supportive space wherein health care professionals are able to share their anxieties and fears as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. They were also able to share the traumas that they have experienced within the hospital context as a result of severe patient morbidity and mortality.
Many doctors and nurses have reported that mental health conditions linked to their work such as anxiety, depression and burnout have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ongoing support will be made available to all Groote Schuur staff to help them to deal with the effects of work related stresses and anxieties related to COVID-19. Doctors and health workers have been painted as “heroes” during the pandemic, however, they are not super human. Health workers need to feel, they need to be able to seek help and that help must be readily available. Working long hours in unfamiliar settings, having to work in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for long periods, fear of contracting COVID-19 and passing it to their loved ones, seeing many patients die and breaking bad news to bereaved families are all having their impact on health workers’ well-being.
“Doctors and health workers have been painted as ‘heroes’ during the pandemic, however, they are not super human.”
At the same time, the lockdown has meant that many health workers have been unable to recharge their batteries. There is limited socialising and many have isolated themselves from their families to protect them. The Consultation Liaison Team has made supporting the wellbeing of health workers at Groote Schuur Hospital a top priority.
Another way in which the Wellness team is supporting our colleagues on the front line is by providing direct patient care within the most stressful and high risk COVID-19 wards within Groote Schuur Hospital. The team has been doing a mental health ward round on the C and G Floors on a daily basis to screen for patients who are requiring mental health assessment, management and treatment as well as checking in amongst the junior doctors on how they are managing.
The Wellness Team also managed to source a number of smartphones which have enabled them to assist patients within the high risk COVID-19 wards to video call their families, and to address the isolation and trauma that many patients are experiencing after being admitted to hospital. Many patients have already lost family members to COVID-19 and are experiencing significant distress and fear for their own health and well-being.
The Division of Consultation Liaison Psychiatry also formalised a partnership with Palliative Medicine to respond to the bereavement and patient distress during the pandemic. Through this partnership the Division hopes to provide a collaborative psychosocial and palliative care response to COVID-19 at Groote Schuur Hospital. The inter-disciplinary approach includes managing bereavement of the families of deceased patients as well as facilitating communication between medical teams and families while patients are receiving care within the hospital and screening for patients who require psychiatric and palliative care throughout the COVID-wards and linking patients with Community Social Workers
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