MedStar Health launches resource to help workers

How Wellness Rounds bring support and real-time stress relief directly to workers on the job

MedStar Health has launched a new resource to help health care workers who have been severely overworked since the pandemic began.

The MedStar Health Center for Well-being will serve workers in the D.C.-Baltimore area.

“It is dedicated to the well-being of all of our 30,000-plus associates, including nurses, physicians and everyone that works at MedStar Health,” said Heather Hartman-Hall, a licensed psychologist and the clinical director for behavioral health initiatives at the center.

Heather Hartman-Hall is a licensed psychologist and the clinical director for behavioral Behavioral Health Initiatives at the MedStar Health Center for Well-being. (Courtesy MedStar Health)

Hartman-Hall said the center takes a holistic approach to well-being: “Really trying to look at their well-being — the professional fulfillment they experience in their work and their quality of life,” she said.

Stress First Aid is part of the wellness strategy.

It was originally developed for the military to help with post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the National Center for PTSD developed a handbook specific to how to think about integrating stress first aid into health care systems.

“Here at MedStar, we’re really trying to get the word out to everyone, at least the basics of stress first aid, including knowing when somebody is being adversely affected by stress in a way that  they need support, being able to quickly identify that and then know the support and resources available to get them connected,” she said.

“Part of our charge, as the well-being center, is to find ways to get this out to everybody across the system, whether it’s in training sessions, making sure leaders are aware and can bring it to their teams, integrating it into our everyday communications around the system,” she said. “So we are both a physical center with dedicated employees and guiding a culture change for all of MedStar Health.”

The Center for Well-being complements existing programs, offering care and support to workers that include stress first aid, backup child care and elder care, a 24/7 peer-support hotline, recharging rooms for meditation and relaxation, and wellness rounds.

Courtesy MedStar Health Center for Well-being (click to enlarge)

An average of 10 wellness rounds a month involve a team of volunteers bringing support and real-time stress relief directly to workers on the job.

“Caregiver volunteers actually go to the units and do drop-bys, and either take a moment to gather a few people around or literally walk around the floor, just briefly checking in on people, handing out information about wellness resources. We do a little stress first aid teaching when there’s time for that,” she said.

Also, the podcast “Scrub In” is geared toward nurses but covers topics everyone might find helpful.

As part of the MedStar Institute for Innovation, the center will focus on research to develop best practices and programs.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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