OHSU has long been on the wellness forefront nationally with such services as the School of Medicine Resident and Faculty Wellness Program, which was launched in 2004. Today, efforts include robust employee and student wellness services, a confidential advocacy program, and initiatives for clinicians through the OHSU Practice Plan.
But the visceral wellness implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have catalyzed a level of coordination, teamwork and creativity like never before. The OHSU Emergency Operations Center put out a call to aggregate and organize wellness efforts across the institution, and veteran leaders, as well as students and redeployed workers, are heeding the call, generating much-needed good feeling in the process.
Leaders of the new Covid-19 Wellness Task Force are M. Kai Roller, M.S.W., LCSW, social work manager, Care Management Division, OHSU Healthcare; and OHSU School of Medicine faculty Andrea Cedfeldt, M.D., professor of medicine and assistant dean for faculty development; Sydney Ey, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and associate director of the Resident and Faculty Wellness Program; Megan Furnari, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and director of medical student wellness, and Abigail Lenhart, M.D., assistant professor of medicine.
"COVID-19 brings with it fear, anticipatory anxiety, loss of control and a sense of hopelessness that can undermine our emotional and physical well-being over time," said Ey. "The passion that is driving each one of us to join forces and expand our work -- serving not only OHSU members but by extension our patients and our community -- is that recognition that, through action, we can replace fear with comfort, regain control and channel hope."
All resources and services for the OHSU community are now posted on one internal website, developed by task force members and now overseen by Cedfeldt. Resources include:
- Mental health counseling: The Resident and Faculty Wellness Program continues to support residents and faculty and the Employee Assistance Program supports all other OHSU employees. Both teams are prepared to provide one-on-one psychological first aid, the best practice for supporting people in times of significant stress.
- Building capacity: Ey is teaming up with Jon Betlinski, M.D.; Barbara Bonnice, D.N.P., R.N., director of Professional Practice; Leslie Hammer, Ph.D.; Caroline Macuiba, L.C.S.W.; Natasha Spoden, M.S., and Sara Walker, Ph.D., to develop a psychological resilience consult service for unit and department leaders across OHSU. Services are anticipated to include consultation with individual leaders on supporting well-being and resilience on their teams, including psychological first aid principles and organizational psychology practices, and small-group listening sessions to support leaders who are managing the emotional impacts on their teams. This consult service will support teams in the clinical and the research missions.
- Peer support: Two established programs (one for health care staff, one for School of Medicine faculty and residents) that provide peer-based intervention to reduce distress and promote wellness in the event of an adverse event at work and are being tapped to assist in the current climate.
- Training: Expert faculty are building out online trainings in best practices for processing trauma.
- Wellness concierge service: Furnari is leading creation of a service through which staff will triage the wellness needs of OHSU members and get them connected – from crisis counseling to child care resources.
- Food and housing: Roller is leading coordination of deliveries of single-serving meals, from pasta to sandwiches, for health care workers in the hospital. Prepared in licensed restaurant and food service kitchens, they are packaged individually for maximum safety. His team is also securing temporary housing for health care workers and respite spaces for use during breaks, in the event of a surge.
“We are mobilizing all of these internal resources, many that already existed, and making them work for what we need right now,” said Furnari, who has also tapped medical students Sarah Newhall, Kate Rosen and Nicole Santucci to assist.
Students and redeployed workers contributing
Rosen, a second-year medical student, went from feeling at loose ends to researching strategies at other institutions, including an employee hotline at Michigan State.
“I consider this an education that money can’t buy,” Rosen said. “I was supposed to be on my OB/GYN rotation right now, but instead I’m learning invaluable lessons about how to help lead a health care organization through a pandemic.”
Santucci, also in the M.D. Class of 2022, is bringing her prior experience as a middle school teacher to think critically about disseminating resources. She is identifying how translation services at OHSU can be utilized to provide employees with equitable access to supports.
“This work has allowed me to channel my energy and skillset into a project that I believe will support all of our essential medical personnel,” Santucci said. “I am grateful to be able to work to support OHSU and our collective community.”
Spoden, a research associate in the OHSU Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, is among three team members contributing their administrative skills through the OHSU central labor pool, created to redeploy OHSU members whose regular work is on hold.
“It is stimulating. New people and new work,” Spoden said. “There is a lot of warmth too. All meetings – and there are many – are started with a check in to get to know each other – people from across campus and disciplines – and to allow us to be human.”
Spoden said she had thought it might feel uncomfortable to basically change jobs (even temporarily) amid so much change, but now feels glad she put her hat in the ring.
“It is heartening to see the creative, steadfast and compassionate ways that the team engages within such uncertainty,” she said. “So much of what I thought at first might feel de-stabilizing feels really enriching and grounding.”