There is a new resource for health care workers to reach for when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Reach for Resilience is a help line for medical professionals, created by Sanford Health and the North Dakota Department of Human Services’ Behavioral Health Division to respond to pandemic-related stressors. The service is free, confidential and open to all health care workers in North Dakota.
Jon Ulven, Ph.D., a psychologist at Sanford Moorhead 8th Street Clinic, said many health care workers are “battle tested” with good coping skills. Still, they can have a hard time with the additional pressures of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He wants to be there for them.
“Our health care workers struggle with reaching out,” he said. “That’s why we wanted to call this Reach for Resilience. I’d want our health care workers to know that we get them because we are them.”
It’s OK not to be OK
Dr. Ulven said health care workers can use the buddy system to look for signs of distress in their co-workers, such as:
- Becoming more withdrawn, less engaged
- Using alcohol more
- Exercising less, eating more comfort food
- Feeling significantly emotional or weepy
- Experiencing increased family distress
Monica Riopelle, a counselor at Sanford Integrative Health, supports health care workers over the phone as part of the Reach for Resilience help line. She also reaches out to other organizations with resources, coping strategies and best practices for resilience.
“I think health caregivers sometimes get the impression that because it’s so busy and because the demands are so increased right now that they almost feel guilty for reaching out and taking care of themselves,” she said. “But I think it’s important to remember that we’re all human, we all need help and it’s OK not to be OK. And we want you to reach out.”
Many resources in one place
Health care workers who call the help line can get confidential help at whatever level they need.
That could mean just a little bit of support, like linking to a self-guided mindfulness webinar or calming app. It could also mean more in-depth support, like talking to someone in the moment or finding a behavioral health care provider of their own.
Stephanie Schafer, an integrated health therapist at Sanford West Fargo Clinic, said no matter what, she wants callers to feel heard. She sees success for this program as helping at least one person find resources.
“I think so often when we are overwhelmed that what we define as success is so high level and becomes almost unattainable,” she said. “So if we can redefine what success looks like in our day, what it looks like for this program to be at that level that’s achievable, then we’re going to cope a lot better.”
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