Research Explores Coaching HCWs to Support Mental Wellbeing During COVID-19

Poster: Coaching Healthcare Workers to Bolster Wellness and Resilience During a Pandemic

Poster authors: Benjamin Rosen, M.D., Mary Preisman, M.D., Robert Maunder, M.D., Heather Read, Ph.D.

“A preliminary assessment of a program of coaching for healthcare workers (HCWs) has found that it is effective in supporting the wellness and resilience of HCWs.”

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a significant threat to the mental health among HCWs who have witnessed and been exposed to tremendous turmoil caused by COVID-19 over the last year plus.

HCWs on the frontlines are at higher risk of experiencing a declining mental health. Therefore, when COVID-19 initially broke out in early 2020, a group of mental health clinicians form the Psychiatry Department at Sinai Health in Toronto, Ontario, created a coaching program designed to meet the needs of colleagues who face significant threat to their mental health. This initiative is based on experience in coaching HCWs during the SARS outbreak of 2003.

Maintaining good mental health, especially during a global pandemic, is crucial to withstanding the focus and rigor the jobs of HCWs require. This 2020 program is equipped with coaches who hold the skills to help colleagues work through emotional distress they face daily on the frontlines, particularly the most commonly felt emotions – anger and fear. They also offer coping mechanisms, advocate, and provide education on how to reduce stress. It is important to note that this program cannot properly help every case, but coaches are trained enough to know when to elicit greater help when needed.

According to the APA poster session, at Sinai Health, there are currently 15 coaches working with 17 units and clinical teams. Coaches provide care both virtually and in person and in groups. Since April of 2020, over 5,300 HCWs have received this coaching support.

The impact of this coaching is being examined by researchers where a preliminary analysis of qualitative data has shown that the coaching has helped to alleviate severe and declining mental health among HCWs. Feedback shared from HCWs who have received the suggests it improve relationships among colleagues, decrease feelings of loneliness, and increases support systems.

Next steps include furthering research to eventually design an online course/handbook that will be useful in helping other sites create beneficial coaching programs.