KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The COVID-19 pandemic put a lot of stress on frontline health care workers in the Kansas City metro as they worked around the clock putting their own lives on the line. At Saint Luke's North Hospital, a pilot program called When Caring Hurts is being used to help its workers.
"We can help them with coping skills. We can help give them resources. We know that somebody is there to listen to, and I think a lot of times what I hear people say is that I want to talk with someone," said Debbie Wriedt, director of Behavioral Health Service Line and Risk Management.
The program, launched in 2019 just months before the pandemic, provides real-time confidential assistance to anyone who has been affected by an adverse event, catastrophic loss, traumatic situation or other stressors they might need to talk about.
So far, they've had more than 100 conversations though the program.
"Basically, we provide them resources," Wriedt said. "If they need emotional support that goes beyond that conversation, we put them in touch with either our employee-assistance program or refer them to outpatient resource such as the behavioral service line."
The program has more than a dozen trained peer supporters who have partnered with various areas of the hospital, both clinical and non-clinical, to provide one-on-one and group support whenever needed, according to Saint Luke's North.
Those on the frontlines told 41 Action News the peer-to-peer support is beneficial.
"You’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about, you get it," said Amy Adkison, a nurse and clinical education specialist at St. Luke’s North. "I think health care professionals are not good at taking care of themselves. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but we are here to take care of other people, so we often times have a hard time recognizing in ourselves when we have having trouble."
The pandemic brought out a plethora of emotions for those in the hospital rooms as they helped patients and families deal with the deadly virus.
"I was alongside the patient and family throughout their whole journey here, and some of them did pass away," Heather Fritz, patient advocate at Saint Luke’s North, said. "And so that was just incredibly sad, you know, to be with them throughout all of it and you form that bond with them."
Once testing of the pilot program is completed at Saint Luke’s North, When Caring Hurts program will be implemented across all campuses of Saint Luke’s Health System.