Dr. Eric Wei is leading the system-wide launch of the Helping Healers Heal program.

NYC Health + Hospitals to Launch Employee Wellness Program to Address Emotional Stress and Burnout among Health Care Providers

NYC Health + Hospitals today announced the launch of a new peer-led employee wellness program that will offer emotional first aid to health care providers who are suffering from workplace stress or anxiety and may be at high risk of depression caused by the demanding circumstances of the job and unexpected patient outcomes. The new Helping Healers Heal program will be rooted in national research that points to health care providers as “Second Victims” of traumatic events commonly experienced in emergency departments, psychiatric units, and pediatric intensive care units.

Through Helping Healers Heal, specially trained teams will first be established at each of the 11 public hospitals to provide peer-to-peer support, mental health expertise, and team-debriefing sessions to staff members following traumatic events. The program will also be available at other patient care sites in the system and open to all employees of NYC Health + Hospitals. The new staff wellness initiative follows the model first adopted by Dr. Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals president and CEO, and Dr. Eric Wei, NYC Health + Hospitals chief quality officer, when they served together in the Los Angeles public health system.

“There’s no question that health care professionals across the country provide great medical care under some of the most demanding circumstances,” said Dr. Katz. “At NYC Health + Hospitals, our Level 1 trauma teams are among the best in the country. Our mental health experts are the most skilled, compassionate professionals in the field. Yet, sometimes the emotional aftershock of treating victims of terrorist attacks or seeing a child die from the flu can cause deep pain and stress that too often goes unaddressed. After all, doctors and nurses are trained to care for others. But, we want our colleagues to know that when challenges arise, there is no shame in seeking help for themselves.”

“Even in a health system like NYC Health + Hospitals that has some of the world’s strongest health care professionals, the challenge comes when someone is pushed beyond normal limits because of an extremely stressful event,” said Dr. Eric Wei. “By quickly linking staff with peer support, we are helping them take the first step in processing feelings and identifying additional resources, so they can heal and continue to help heal others.”

One of the first Helping Healers Heal debriefing sessions took place following the death of a pediatric flu patient at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst in Queens.

“The death of a child is a particularly traumatic event for the entire family,” said Gregory Kenny, MD, a pediatric physician in the emergency department. “It is also traumatic for us. It felt good to be given the opportunity to be heard and to express my feelings. I think the debriefing brought our team closer together and strengthened our sense of community. We were able to learn from one another in a supportive environment and process the death as a group.”

The Joint Commission recently issued an advisory urging health care organizations to implement programs that offer support to staff following adverse events. Without adequate support, health care professionals are more likely to experience guilt and anxiety, reduced job satisfaction, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide ideation. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an estimated 300 to 400 physicians die by suicide in the United States every year.

Research conducted by Albert Wu, MD, the physician who coined the term “Second Victim,” and Susan Scott, RN, PhD, indicates similar emotional support programs elsewhere have been shown to increase the overall safety culture and quality of care, as well as provide cost savings to the health care systems that successfully utilize them.

Landmark Alzheimer’s Study Urgently Seeks African American Volunteers

Family grocery shopping

Study focuses on early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and tracking it over time African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease

More than 5 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and scientists expect this number to triple by 2050. Experts say that African Americans are two to three times more likely than white Americans to develop the disease. A momentous scientific study focused on early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, and tracking it over time, seeks healthy volunteers without memory problems, as well as people who have mild memory problems, and those who have been diagnosed with mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease.

The prestigious Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative – or ADNI – funded by the National Institutes of Health, is one of the largest and longest running Alzheimer’s disease trials in history. Now in the third phase of trials, researchers are studying how quickly things like reasoning and the ability to perform certain functions change in the aging brain. Researchers need to better understand the disease progression in order to speed the pace of discovery in the race to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer’s disease.

“It is extremely important that more African Americans get involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, which affects nearly all of us in some way,” said Michael Weiner, MD, principal investigator of the study. “We need to know why and how Alzheimer’s disease progresses in African Americans in order to discover new treatments that could significantly improve the way we treat it in the future.”

The study uses state-of-the-art imaging to monitor brain levels of two proteins called tau and amyloid, both of which are significant indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers track cognitive function through computer tests at home and in a doctor’s office, which includes measuring changes in one’s ability to handle money, a common warning sign of the disease.

“One of the biggest challenges researchers face is finding people to volunteer to take part in studies,” said Weiner. “We can beat Alzheimer’s, but we can’t do it without volunteers.”

The ADNI Study needs 800 people to enroll in sites across the United States and in Canada. Researchers are looking for people between the ages of 55 and 90 who have normal thinking and memory function, as well as those who have mild memory problems and those who have been diagnosed with mild dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. No medication is involved.

Potential study volunteers can learn more by visiting www.ADNI3.org or by calling 1-888-2-ADNI-95 (1-888-223-6495).

Photo courtesy of Getty Images