An interdisciplinary approach to support hospital staff during the COVID-19 pandemic
From White Plains Hospital, by Rabbi Fredda Cohen, MA, JD, BCC; Laura Himmelstein, LCSW, CHTP; and Laura Romeo Sobel, MS, CCLS\
Westchester County, in New York, was one of the first areas in the United States to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 8, 2020, White Plains Hospital, a 292-bed tertiary hospital located in White Plains, New York, admitted its first patient with the disease. By mid-April, the number of admitted patients with COVID-19 represented 80% of the Hospital census. The Hospital was instructed by the state to increase its bed capacity by 50% and new critical care units were created in a matter of days.
Virtually every unit, with two exceptions, became “closed units,” requiring staff to don personal protective equipment (PPE) prior to entering the unit. Elective surgeries were shut down by state mandate, and many doctors and nurses from the entire Hospital system were deployed to these closed units. Non-clinical staff were also enlisted to take temperatures and distribute PPE at the entrances of the Hospital, and otherwise assist in stemming the spread of the virus.
As staff continuously tended to such critically ill and highly contagious patients, the Hospital developed programs to support its frontline workers. One effective initiative was the Hospital’s Care Code team, which made frequent visits to the nursing units and other Hospital departments. Due in part to its regular presence on the units during the past three years, the Care Code team was readily accepted by the staff. How the Care Code came to be, and its impact on the staff both prior to and during the pandemic, is the essence of this article.