Columbus, OH,
18:57 PM

Columbus Dispatch: Caring for Your Own

How are you? That was a question many took for granted before the pandemic. Now, a year into this, many have realized how important it is to ask, to listen, and take action if the answer isn't in a good place.

For healthcare systems, that question has never been more important.  OhioHealth has worked hard to start programs, expand others, and connect associates, both on the front-lines and those that aren't taking care of patients with programs that can literally save lives.

“The cumulative strain has been significant, and we’re just now starting to see the effects of it,” said Laurie Hommema, MD a family physician and OhioHealth medical director of provider and associate well-being.

“What happened is people were adrenalized and just pushed through, but once they get their head out of water and are out of that `work, work, work’ mode, they slow down and see where they are.I take care of a lot of health care workers in my own practice, and I’m seeing anxiety and insomnia and the beginnings of depression, along with some really complex grief reactions.”

Those that take care of patients each and every day are not the only ones that are struggling with resiliency. Nikki Walker works for OhioHealth as a director of revenue cycle.

“I felt that if I don’t truly give everything I have in this moment, people would die,” Walker said to Ken Gordon of The Columbus Dispatch. “And that wasn’t just something I was thinking, that was being said.”

She also felt guilt about the way she was feeling, knowing that she wasn't taking care of patients, but still struggling.

“One challenge that came up for many of us non-clinical folks is feeling guilt and shame around sharing the fact that you are struggling,” she said. “How dare you admit you’re struggling when these brave people are out here facing this every single day?”

Experts say those feelings should not be ignored. That each journey is different, and feelings of depression, hopelessness or being overwhelmed are very normal, and can be looked at by a mental health expert.

Walker found it through one-on-one counseling sessions, others have plugged into the Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, and there are plenty of other elements. There have been adopt-a-unit programs started to show support.

“Because ultimately, if you’re not well yourself, it affects the patients you care for,” Hommema said. “That’s truly the driving force behind my work," Hommema said.

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