Well-Being Weekly | Week of August 3rd, 2020

Explore the latest research, news, and developments in the world of wellness in this installment of the Well-Being Weekly. Get caught up on this week's biggest stories surrounding mental health and well-being in the healthcare industry, provided by Well-Being Index experts Patrick McNally and Sunny Prabhakar. 

Grant opportunities to protect healthcare worker well-being during and after COVID-19

Since the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare organizations around the world have been forced to take drastic measures to reduce budgets and programming. A devastating consequence of this response is the depletion of resources and funding once allocated to protecting the mental health of medical staff. Experts warn of the impending 'pandemic of distress' caused by the traumatic experience of treating patients through the global pandemic. Hazardous working conditions, unprecedented uncertainty, and the inability to provide adequate care compiled with a culture of medicine already plagued with alarming levels of burnout is threatening the health and well-being of medical professionals around the nation. 

Federal legislators have recently started to recognize the perilous position healthcare organizations are in and the incredible need of support, and have introduced a number of bills to offer grant opportunities for funding healthcare provider wellness initiatives specifically. These bi-partisan bills have the potential to greatly assist wellness programs and improve conditions for clinicians and other medical professionals. 

Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act

Introduced last month by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Todd Young (R-IN), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act "would take major steps to reduce and prevent suicide and burnout and alleviate other mental health concerns that have only been exacerbated by COVID-19." 

In a press release from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) supporting the act, President William Jaquis, MD, FACEP describes the loss of ACEP member Lorna Breen, the emergency physician who died from suicide while treating pandemic patients and who the act is named after. "Dr. Breen was one of our own . . . nobody should be forced to choose between their mental health and their career."

The bill proposes a grant program for medical schools, academic health centers, State or local governments, and other nonprofit entities to develop evidence-based strategies to "reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and behavioral health conditions including mental health conditions and substance use disorders among healthcare professionals," along with strategies to "improve healthcare professionals' well-being and job satisfaction."

Coronavirus Health Care Worker Wellness Act

In June, the the bipartisan Coronavirus Health Care Worker Wellness Act was introduced by Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), John Katko (R-NY), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) in an effort to "award grants to health care providers to establish or expand programs dedicated to promoting mental wellness among their health care workers, including contractors, on the front lines of the SARS–CoV–2 pandemic, and for other purposes."

According to a press release from Representative Krishnamoorthi, "one study found that half of health care workers in hospitals with COVID-19 patients had symptoms of depression, almost half had symptoms of anxiety, and over one-third had symptoms of insomnia. Many are expected to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at rates comparable to soldiers returning from war." The press release continues to list support for the bill from a number of healthcare organizations, including the Emergency Nurses Association, the American Medical Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the American College of Surgeons. 

"This landmark legislation would directly address the toll this crisis has taken on the mental wellness of frontline health care workers," Said Representative Krishnamoorth. "As the husband of a physician, I’ve seen the burden this pandemic has placed on health care workers as they’ve risked their lives to save others.”

Hero Act of 2019

Further legislation recently introduced to protect the well-being of healthcare providers is the HERO Act of 2019, also known as the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Act of 2019. This objective of the bill is to "require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to improve the detection, prevention, and treatment of mental health issues among public safety officers, and for other purposes." 

If passed, the Secretary along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will "develop and maintain a data system to be known as the Public Safety Officer Suicide Reporting System," to gather data and study potential strategies and interventions for reducing public safety officer suicide.

Potential for improved well-being

Federal grants from this seminal legislation coupled with effective tools such as the Well-Being Index have the potential to greatly impact healthcare worker wellness and mitigate the harmful effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a brighter spotlight is placed on medical provider distress and the importance of strategic well-being initiatives, public support for the bills from healthcare organizations is imperative for their success. Together we can fight distress, increase awareness, improve conditions, and Go Beyond Burnout.

Well-Being Weekly

Make sure to look for next week's Well-Being Weekly update to stay on top of everything happening in the world of wellness. Follow the Well-Being Index on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for even more content and resources surrounding clinician well-being and mental health!


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