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Past the Pandemic

‘Past the Pandemic’ Supports the Mental Health of Frontline Healthcare Workers

Department of Psychiatry initiative helps those who are helping others during COVID-19

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Written by Kiley Carroll on September 15, 2020

The past six months have affected everyone, but particularly the people working the front lines in healthcare. By doing their jobs of providing care to others during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also at a high risk of feeling stressed and anxious, among many other emotions. It is critical that healthcare workers know where to go if they need help when feeling this way and have support at no charge to get them through this difficult time. 

To provide mental health support to these frontline workers, the Department of Psychiatry in the CU School of Medicine launched a state-wide initiative called Past the Pandemic in April. With support from federal grants obtained by the state of Colorado, the Department of Psychiatry is providing free mental health services including support groups, individual support and an eight-session series on building resilience to healthcare providers and workers across the state.

‘Strengthened resolve’

The COVID-19 pandemic has “only strengthened my resolve to make a difference and impact where I can,” says Katie Herrmann, LCSW, manager of Inpatient Social Work Services at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. Herrmann is just one of the participants in the eight-session series focusing on coping and resilience building during the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When asked what is most helpful about these sessions, Herrmann replied, “The fact that this was available at all was amazing. That and knowing the support was not limited to these group sessions. We could also reach out for individual support, and that was a game changer. This service allowed me to have and maintain the support for my team during this time.”

‘By supporting these providers we

believe that patients’ care and

healing will be better.’

– Steven Berkowitz, MD

Shannon Walter, MSN, RN, nurse manager at UCHealth, participated in support groups with her team. She commented, “I thought it was SO helpful to have free and accessible therapy sessions. Honestly, as a manager, it saved my life! I really had staff that felt supported, heard, and it took a little bit of the burden off of me. I highly, highly recommend that we continue this if possible. I really am thankful and appreciate this resource so much and more than anyone could know.” 

When asked if they would continue to use these services, both Herrmann and Walter responded with a resounding yes! 

Supporting providers

Steven Berkowitz, MD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry is leading these initiatives. He stated, “We recognized early on how overwhelmed healthcare personnel were. Clearly, if they are not feeling well, their performance and care suffer. By supporting these providers we believe that patients’ care and healing will be better.”

Below are a list of services provided by the Department of Psychiatry free of charge for all health care providers and workers in Colorado:

  • Past the Pandemic is an eight-session series available for providers and staff working in healthcare settings and offers tools to navigate, normalize and hold space for worries and experiences during this pandemic. This series is offered in collaboration with ECHO Colorado and a new session will begin in early October. To learn more, visit org/echo/past-the-pandemic/.
  • Support groups are available to practices, hospital-based teams, disciplines, hospital ancillary staff (e.g. phlebotomy, environmental and food services, etc.), congregate care staff, public health providers, child welfare workers and others. Sessions are scheduled on an as-needed basis, on a regular schedule or following a critical event. The hour-long, interactive support sessions are also available throughout the week to accommodate different shifts. If interested in scheduling a support session, please contact covidsupportgroup@ucdenver.edu
  • The Well-Being Support Line is available to faculty, clinicians, PRAs and staff for calls or texts and is staffed by volunteers (primarily students and staff) with back up from licensed mental health providers. We can facilitate referrals to longer term treatment if requested. The support line can be reached at 303-724-2500.
  • The Physician-to-Physician Support Line is for MDs and PhDs that are providing care to patients in Colorado and would like to talk to someone who is familiar with the particular issues facing physicians. The support line can be reached at 303-724-1636.

To learn more about the CU Department of Psychiatry’s services, please visit medschool.cuanschutz.edu/psychiatry.