MSU – Mount Sinai Hospital – University Health Network Academic Medical Organization
Coaching Healthcare Workers to Bolster Wellness and Resilience during a Pandemic
Resilience Coaching at Sinai Health began in April 2020, with the aim of offering a timely response to supporting psychosocial needs of healthcare workers (HCWs) during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has continued to the present and evolved along with staff need.
The Department of Psychiatry at Sinai Health developed Resilience Coaching using evidence-based principles, lessons learned from previous outbreaks of infectious disease, and first-hand experience supporting HCWs during the 2003 outbreak of SARS. Resilience Coaching draws from principles of consultation-liaison (C/L) psychiatry including the importance of working closely with medical teams in providing patient care; in contrast to C/L psychiatry, the focus of support is the clinical team, instead of the patient.
Coaches are mental health clinicians, but Resilience Coaching is distinct from clinical care. Instead, coaches apply skills and training in psychotherapy to support frontline HCWs. In general, coaches try to support a team with whom they had a pre-existing relationship; if there was no prior relationship, coaches established a relationship by providing a consistent and supportive presence. Coaches provide dynamic, in-the-moment support and are responsive to the group needs. Coaches lead unstructured sessions where staff provide mutual support, promoting group cohesiveness, and can also facilitate access to clinical care when appropriate. Sessions can explore mindfulness, psycho-education, or coping skills, among many other topics.
A research evaluation began in Fall 2020. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 37 participants in Resilience Coaching – 24 HCWs were interviewed about their experiences receiving support from resilience coaches, and 13 coaches were interviewed about their experiences delivering coaching. Analysis of the interview data is ongoing. Results are showing that participants appreciated the intervention. They reported Resilience Coaching offered necessary opportunities for collegial connection, space at work to attend to personal needs, and opportunities to learn coping skills to deal with pandemic stressors. Staff also noted that Resilience Coaches were able to assist them in navigating a pathway to access clinical mental health support when that was explicitly needed. Coaches who participated in interviews reported that they were motivated by opportunities to support frontline HCWs, but experienced challenges in the areas of finding time within busy schedules, balancing role tensions and working while experiencing their own personal burnout. Coaches noted that delivering Resilience Coaching with a partner coach seemed to mitigate many of these challenges, and allowed for coaches to deliver more consistent offerings.
Further study of the Resilience Coaching model is warranted to determine how best to engage the diverse occupational subcultures that exist within the hospital. It has been noted that primary participants in sessions seem to be nurses and allied health professionals; ways to provide support to physicians is of particular interest. Research is also required to explore whether the model is feasible in and applicable to other healthcare contexts, such as rural hospitals or long term care facilities..
Mental Health and Well-Being
Primary Project Lead for Contact
Dr. Mary Preisman
Secondary Project Lead for Contact
Dr. Benjamin Rosen