Med Journal March 2021 Final 2 - Page 7

mors and false narratives that are being played out in the media , social media platforms , etc .”
Another development that has caused a lot of stress has been the necessary changes to visitation policies , he continued . “ Because of the pandemic , we created these restrictive policies that , while correct from a public health perspective , put us in a place mentally and organizationally where we must tell a family member that their loved one is very sick , may die , and may die alone in an ICU . So , we ’ ve had many stressors that have been placed on patients as well as health care personnel .”
Personal Workplace Experiences and Responses to the Pandemic
Central Arkansas Pediatric Clinic in Bryant currently falls into the group with a lower patient load . So far , physicians and staff there are not reporting dangerous stress levels ,
David Weed , MD
but that doesn ’ t mean things haven ’ t been difficult . “ Definitely this past year has been difficult ,” said David Weed , MD , managing partner . “ Our staff has dealt with levels of stress and anxiety that none of us have seen before . We are all worried about the health of our patients , our family , and ourselves . Personally , I ’ m managing by trying to get plenty of exercise , getting plenty of sleep , and keeping a positive attitude .”
Overall , things seem to be getting better rather than worse as this clinic has seen their protective measures working for them . “ I would say we ’ re all tired of it , but we ’ ve tried to keep our focus firmly on minimizing exposures and keeping our staff , patients , and physicians safe ,” said Cheryl Arnold , MHSA , FACMPE , CAPC administer . “ So far , we have not had any exposures that have been work-related . In other words , our PPE and our habits are working to protect us Cheryl Arnold .”
The vaccine becoming available is an added encouragement . “ Most of our employees have now had their first dose of the vaccine ,” she said . “ While everybody was subject to questions like ‘ How long is this going to last ?’, this has brought a glimmer of hope that , at least individually , we can have immunity . It feels like a sign of the beginning of the end of the pandemic .”
Residual stress most clinics can relate to involves uncertainty surrounding their future business model . “ There is lingering concern about financial viability ,” Arnold noted . “ We ’ re operating in a more expensive business environment because of the extra things we ’ re doing now to protect ourselves and our patients . At the same time , our volume is not where it usually is during this season of the year . We ’ ve done well , but there was some help during 2020 and we are not sure how far the pandemic will stretch into 2021 . We ’ re approaching operations and decision-making with caution and optimism that CAPC will come out of this storm stronger .”
Taking Control of Small Things Can Alleviate Some Stress
Effectively managing stressors can help physicians counter mental health challenges , reported an October 2020 article by Christine Blank published by Physicians Practice , an MJH Life Sciences™ publication . In the article , Blank reported that physicians and other staff members can alleviate future burnout now by “ exploring ways to reduce physician stress when patient loads fully return to normal .” Examples included examining documentation templates , workflow practices , and innovative approaches to lingering problems . She quoted Andrew Swanson , VP of Industry Insight for Medical Group Management Association , who recommended , “… Look at small inefficiencies that , over the course of dozens of patient visits each day , create wasted time that frustrates physicians and the care team .”
Such roll-up-your-sleeves exercises can feel like an immediate win . Swanson explained further , “ It gives the team time to look inward — time they typically don ’ t have — to look at underlying reasons for physician burnout .”
Dr . Messias also indicated that physicians can maintain a sense of control for themselves and their staff , even during the pandemic , by
“ Now , more than ever , we need each other . ”
– Erick Messias , MD , MPH , PhD
getting down to work . “ Discuss with your organizations processes like scheduling and phone calls ,” he recommended . “ Devote time and resources to wellness . Many institutions are creating a chief wellness officer to oversee and organize these initiatives . Finally , take control of electronic medical records !”
During COVID ’ s extra challenges , UAMS has implemented several new COVID-related wellness efforts . Dr . Messias was involved in this process , along with Natalie Cannady , M . Ed ., chief wellness officer ; Puru Thapa , MD , medical director of the UAMS Student Wellness Program ; and other departments and staff members .
Among the new efforts is Supportive Conversations , a phone line available to UAMS employees that puts them in touch with a supportive person . “ What is a supportive person ?” said Dr . Messias . “ Our first thought was not to make it a mental health issue immediately , so it ’ s not a counselor , psychiatrist , or psychologist . Instead , we recruited coaches from our own staff . Along with our pastoral care folks – our chaplains – they have made themselves available to talk to people who call anytime day or night . They are trained to screen for specific mental health problems . So , if the caller is faculty , student , or resident , they can be referred to EAP [ Employee Assistance Programs ] or another appropriate wellness program .”
Other support tools at UAMS have included Supportive Rounds , whereby volunteer social workers visit and spend time with staff working COVID units ; Mindfulness Class , which is open to all UAMS employees and led by Dr . Thapa ; and a series of videos featuring conversations with mental health professionals about how to address mental health issues .
“ Finally , we ’ ve been engaging from department to department ,” said Dr . Messias . “ We need to hear from each other , support each other , so the chairs of each department began checking in weekly with their faculty members . The dean is checking in with the
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