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Call a Psychologist: Supporting our healthcare workers through the COVID-19 crisis

By

  • Call a Psychologist Team
  • Psychology and Specialist Services
  • Mental Health Program
  • Monash Health

Description

We know the enormous stress and pressure that a pandemic can have on a hospital system and in particular healthcare workers. A lot is being asked of workers during this COVID-19 crisis and it is vital we look after ourselves and each other during this time. We recognised the need to offer a supportive and confidential service to health workers under stress in highly unusual circumstances. The Call a Psychologist service was designed to deliver same-day specialist support to healthcare workers/teams that promotes the development of coping mechanisms and practical skills to deal with workplace stressors.

Key Features

1

With healthcare workers at greater risk of poor mental health, and exposure to crisis events including COVID-19 deaths, substantial changes in work practices and high service demand, we recognised that workers needed access to specialised psychological support. The Call a Psychologist service was rapidly designed to offer same-day support delivered by psychologists trained in Psychological First Aid. A critical component of our design process was and is the continuous evaluation of data and user feedback; adapting our service to better meet workers’ needs. Our service was extended to include reflective practice sessions and service-wide webinars (topics including self-care, anxiety management).

2

To date, 735 Monash Health employees have received this service, comprising of 103 individual and 48 team sessions. The service has been mostly accessed by nurses and midwives (34%) and managers and supervisors (31%). Main concerns raised include experiences of: general anxiety and/or stress; difficulties with change of work practice due to COVID-19; and personal or family crisis. Healthcare workers have provided feedback that this service has been supportive, helpful and validating of their concerns; giving them additional support to continue their important work and improve their general health and wellbeing. See data visualisations for more information.

3

Current research shows that healthcare workers during COVID-19 are experiencing higher levels of depressive symptoms, tiredness, anxiety, and worry about their health. Long-term negative impacts on healthcare workers during past pandemics has also been found; highlighting the need for support now and in the future. Call a Psychologist has been responsive to the emotional needs of our frontline healthcare workers and is now well embedded in our hospital system. Regular evaluation of data and user feedback allows for continuous improvement to better support our healthcare workers. This design process is a benchmark for service design and innovation within Monash Health.

4

After a critical incident, when the usual Employee Assistance Scheme was unavailable to provide on-site support to a distressed team, the psychology team was approached to step in. With workers at a higher risk of experiencing depression and anxiety during this pandemic and the Employee Assistance Program no longer being able to offer face-to-face sessions, the Call a Psychologist service was rapidly designed to address these issues. Call a Psychologist provides same-day phone, video and face-to-face support to healthcare workers and is delivered by psychologists trained in Psychological First Aid, an effective practical support for people experiencing extremely distressing events.

5

Psychological First Aid (PFA) is a critical first-line psychosocial support that involves supportive and practical help to those experiencing serious crisis events and has been an effective support for healthcare workers in past outbreaks. Thirteen Monash Health psychologists who are trained in PFA provide this service to healthcare workers alongside their usual roles. In addition to provision of individual and team sessions, Call a Psychologist has been extended to include weekly reflective practice sessions, group education, and delivery of service-wide webinars – which has been positively received. Follow up sessions are also offered to individuals or teams as necessary.

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