How Evergreen Health system pivoted to support physician well-being

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Evergreen Health system in Kirkland, Wash., was one of the first health systems in the country to experience a COVID-19 patient and outbreak. Pratima Sharma, MD, executive medical director of Evergreen Health, spoke to the American Medical Association about how the system dealt with the novel experience.

Dr. Sharma explained that when they realized they had COVID-positive patients, it led to some fear and confusion. 

"How is it going to affect my health? My family's health? My staff's health? There were no masking guidelines. There were no social distancing guidelines at the time," she said.

The CDC quickly arrived within the first three days of the confirmed positives, and together with consulting experts, the system worked through guidelines, updating them whenever new information came to light. Dr. Sharma said communicating frequently with staff about decisions and the reasons for them was crucial: "We immediately set up a command center. We were able to send out our daily updating emails for all our staff and our community. We instituted town halls on a pretty much instant basis."

The health system then used a flexible approach to ensure staff with different challenges and requirements were getting the help they needed. They created shared leave, reached out to local churches and child care organizations for child care assistance, as well as created an employee assistance fund. 

Although the gaps in our knowledge of COVID-19 have reduced, healthcare workers are still vulnerable to burnout and stress. Dr. Sharma explained ways in which Evergreen continues to support staff, especially in light of the delta surge: "We have our wellness committee. We've created some zen dens at the hospital where people can have a few minutes of rest when they need it. The town halls have continued and we have a very strong basis. We can't make the stress from the pandemic go away, but we want to support our staff and our physicians."


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