UAB launches new program to support nurses

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WAFF) – The coronavirus pandemic has tested the healthcare community, especially nurses working on the front lines. Since the start of the pandemic, healthcare workers have been living in conditions that some have likened to a war zone.

Working in these high-stakes environments has had a huge impact on nurses’ mental health and well-being. According to Mental Health America, healthcare workers have reported increased depression and anxiety, changes in appetite, and physical exhaustion.

MHA says that when asked about emotional support, the largest group of healthcare workers said they did not feel they had adequate emotional support.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is working to better support its nurses through a program called WE CARE, or OWorkforce Ecommitment to VScompassionate Aadvocacy, Relasticity and EEmpowerment program.

According to the UAB, the Health Resources and Services Administration has invested $2.3 million in programs, such as WE CARE, to provide assistance to the UAB workforce and “establish the ground for resources that can be implemented for nurses across the state to access.”

“This program will involve several interventions. One of them is the community resilience model, which is a specific model used to help people build resilience,” said Dr. Pat Patrician, professor and holder of the Rachel Z. Booth Chair in Nursing at the UAB.

“Another element is the psychological first aid program that was developed at Johns Hopkins, and it is a program that is often used during disasters by the American Red Cross and others to help people who work in very stressful situations to have a safe space,” she added.

WE CARE also includes peer support and response, Dr. Patrician said. According to the university, it will hire and train five nursing development specialists for the program and provide a mental health nurse practitioner for professional counseling services.

Dr. Patrician says she understands that burnout and staffing shortages were issues before COVID-19. “I lived through the nursing shortages in the 1980s, the hospital cutbacks in the 1990s, and many other tough times in nursing,” said Dr. Patrician. However, she says she has never seen nurses endure such a situation before.

“Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system and need resources that help them through tumultuous times and support their mental well-being,” she said.

If you are a healthcare professional who does not work at UAB and are concerned about your mental health, go to mhanational.org/frontline for screening, resources and support.

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Ryan H. Bowman