Long before there was COVID-19, there was health care worker burnout. Dealing with the daily stresses that arise from taking care of people in the best of times is demanding enough. Add to that a global pandemic, and you’ve got the ingredients for widespread exhaustion among the very workforce we’re relying on most at this time.
Jasmine Bhatti has seen firsthand how the coronavirus crisis is affecting health care workers on the front line. A graduate student and teaching assistant at Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Bhatti works in neurotology, helping patients recover from head and neck surgery. As the virus swiftly pervaded the United States, she watched as so too did misinformation, fear and uncertainty.
All of that compelled Bhatti to create a space where doctors, nurses and other essential health care personnel could go to compare notes, de-stress and commiserate. And since we can’t be together in person right now, she took her idea online and started the COVID Resilience for Healthcare Professionals Facebook group.
“When you think about institutions, it’s sometimes very time-consuming to share ideas and spread knowledge,” Bhatti said. “I thought we really needed to have a place where people who work in all different roles in the health care setting, in all different kinds of institutions, whether rural or urban, (could) share how we’re getting through this. Because no matter where we are, we’re all dealing with the same issues.”
Though the group has been up and running for only a few short weeks, it already has thousands of members spanning the country and world. Bhatti called on colleagues from a variety of specialties to contribute their expertise, from yoga to nightly prayers to holistic coaching. The content is shared both via Facebook Live sessions and posts of videos and other resources that can be accessed at any time.
Edson College postdoctoral scholar Dara James jumped on board to share her knowledge of mindfulness. James’ research background is in looking at the application of mind-body interventions for stress reduction. She has experience applying those methods for patients recovering from breast cancer, but she says mindfulness is a tool for everyone.
“One of the things we focus on in mindfulness is nonjudgmental present awareness, meeting whatever moment you’re in as it is,” James said. “That sounds a little heady and ‘out there,’ but what it means is that mindfulness helps reduce stress by allowing people to be aware of what their circumstances are and what they need to help themselves. So, for instance, if someone is having a stressful moment, mindfulness might help them to understand that it’s just a moment, and it will pass.”
James said what she hopes to offer the members of the COVID Resilience for Healthcare Professionals Facebook group are “bite-size” mindfulness tips they can take with them and use in their everyday lives in the field.
“The whole thing is designed around resiliency and reducing stress and anxiety,” she said. “So I’m trying to offer a variety of tools people can use when they’re in the moment, caring for others, but need some self-care.”
As for Bhatti, she signs on to the Facebook group every day to help moderate, but also to take advantage herself of the resources being shared. She has also enjoyed watching as friends and colleagues make meaningful connections through the group.
“Watching them create these relationships is exciting,” Bhatti said. “You know these amazing people and you get to connect them, or at least facilitate that, and they’re so grateful for the content we’re providing. I’m just happy we were able to create a safe place where people can talk and recognize that they’re not alone.”
Top photo courtesy of Pixabay