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UAB launches new program to support nurses

WAFF 48's Jasmyn Cornell reporting
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 6:00 AM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WAFF) - The coronavirus pandemic has tested the health care community, especially nurses working on the frontlines. Since the start of the pandemic, healthcare workers have been experiencing conditions that some have compared to a war zone.

Working in these high-stakes environments has had a huge impact on the mental health and well-being of nurses. According to Mental Health America, healthcare workers have reported an increase in depression and anxiety, changes in appetite, and physical exhaustion.

MHA says when asked about emotional support, the largest group of healthcare workers indicated that they did not feel they had adequate emotional support.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is working to better support its nurses through a program called WE CARE, or Workforce Engagement for Compassionate Advocacy, Resiliency and Empowerment Program.

According to UAB, the Health Resources and Services Administration has invested $2.3 million in programs, such as WE CARE, to provide assistance to the UAB workforce and “establish groundwork for resources that can be implemented for nurses around the state to access.”

“This program will involve several interventions. One of them is the community resilience model, which is a specific model used to help people develop resilience,” said Dr. Pat Patrician, a Professor and Rachel Z. Booth Endowed Chair in Nursing at UAB.

“Another component is the psychological first aid program that was developed at Johns Hopkins, and that’s a program that’s often used in disasters by the American Red Cross and others to help folks, who work in very stressful situations, to have a safe space,” she added.

WE CARE also includes peer support and response, said Dr. Patrician. According to the university, it will hire and train five nursing development specialists for the program and provide a mental health nurse practitioner for professional counseling services.

Dr. Patrician says she understands that burnout and staffing shortages were issues prior to COVID-19. “I have lived through the nursing shortages in the 1980s, the hospital cutbacks in the ‘90s, and many other challenging times in the nursing field,” said Dr. Patrician. However, she says she has never seen nurses endure a situation like this before.

“Nurses are the backbone of the health care system and need resources that help them during tumultuous times and support their mental well-being,” she said.

If you are a healthcare worker, who doesn’t work at UAB, and are concerned about your mental health, go to mhanational.org/frontline for screening, resources, and support.

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