Mayo Clinic chaplains launch program to ease stressors for staff due to COVID-19

Originally published by Mayo Clinic’s News Center:

Mayo Clinic chaplains have received a grant to launch “Together: We’re Better,” a pilot initiative to address social isolation, compassion fatigue and emotional exhaustion in staff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.      

As staff across Mayo Clinic continue to care for patients with COVID-19 and manage their own work and life stressors, the Department of Spiritual Care is working with a multidisciplinary team to help address those stressors.

The team is launching “Together: We’re Better,” a pilot initiative to address social isolation, compassion fatigue and emotional exhaustion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is supported by a Henry Luce Foundation grant with Brandeis University and also addresses issues related to language barriers and cultural differences.

Health care workers are at increased risk for anxiety, stress and sadness because of the prolonged nature of the pandemic. They also face communication difficulties compounded by the need to wear personal protective equipment. Outside of work, social isolation can lead to decreased connection with others, says Beba Tata, Spiritual Care, who is a principal investigator for the grant.

The “Together: We’re Better” program — which will give staff opportunities to share their experiences, fears and concerns in a safe environment — is being piloted on Domitilla 6B, the Medical Thoracic Unit at Saint Marys Campus of Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester.

Staff participating in the program will build on their skills to nurture relationships with colleagues, reduce social isolation, process stress and anxiety, and increase their ability to engage with different cultural and racial perspectives.

The program will offer support that will include:

  • Monthly virtual Schwartz Rounds focused on staff experiences in critical situations.
  • Journaling prompts for self or one-to-one sharing.
  • Two half-day retreats based on the “Courage and Renewal Circles of Trust” process of shared exploration where people can find a safe space to nurture themselves personally and professionally.

“Since fear and change can keep us stuck in our heads or constricted in our gut, this kind of engagement helps shift to more of a heart center where both courage and compassion reside,” Tata says.

 In its pilot phase, the program is open to all staff in Domitilla 6B, regardless of role.

If the program is successful, it will be expanded to other units to support staff through COVID-19 and beyond.

More information

Direct questions to Beba TataElizabeth (BJ) Larson, Spiritual Care, or Kimberly Brake, nurse manager on Domitilla 6B.