University of Mississippi Medical Center creates mental health program for employees burned out by COVID-19

GRENADA, Miss. (WCBI) – Monday, University of Mississippi Medical Center announced that it is creating a new mental health support program to help employees manage the emotional exhaustion of the pandemic.

“We have stressful jobs. All employees here, we’re taking care of patients,” says UMMC Grenada’s clinical operations director Cristy Seibel. “You add the pandemic to it? We had no idea how overwhelming it would become.”

For doctors, nurses, or any healthcare worker, they know that long hours, stress, and an intense workload are part of the job.

“It could be 16 hours and then have to sleep for a few hours and come right back in,” Seibel says.

But as COVID-19 continues to fill Mississippi hospitals, they need someone to take care of them.

“The pandemic has been an emotional roller coaster for the employees,” Seibel says. “Where the COVID cases have increased and staffing has decreased.”

According to the American Hospital Association, 50 percent of health care workers surveyed in 2020 said managing their emotional well-being was the hardest part of the pandemic.

By 2021, that number went up to 75 percent.

UMMC Grenada’s physician and community relations director Sara Frances Horan says it’s not just doctors and nurses feeling the strain.

“Our dietary team, our housekeeping team, they all play such a key role in what we do to care for patients,” she says. “So across the board, they’re all being affected.”

The mental wellness program includes access to screenings and treatment from mental health counselors and a psychiatry professor to determine the best course for counseling or further treatment options.

“It can be totally anonymous,” Seibel says. “They can do it during their shift if they need help right then.”

It will also offer online modules with mental and physical self-care tips.

“How to sleep when you just can’t sleep, or how to have a balanced diet when you’re working a 12-hour shift,” Horan says.

Seibel says that just knowing they have someone they can turn to will make all the difference.

“Somebody is there to support you,” she says. “You’re stressed out. You’re burned out. And we’re going to help.”

The program is being run by the UMMC Office of Well-Being and funded by a $3 million grant. They hope to have it up and running within a few weeks.

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