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Healthcare Association of New York State Recognizes NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst for Employee Mental Health Support Services During Pandemic

Elmhurst Hospital's application of the system's Helping Healers Heal program supported employees' emotional and psychological health during COVID-19 pandemic

2021 Pinnacle Award for Quality and Patient Safety recognizes initiatives that improve the quality of healthcare delivery in New York

Dec 22, 2021

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst today announced it’s received the 2021 Pinnacle Award for Quality and Patient Safety by the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) for its employee mental health support services provided during the pandemic. An application of the City’s public health system’s Helping Healers Heal (H3), the peer support program expanded within the hospital to reach all hospital employees by engaging more peer support champions and meeting staff where they were. Peer support champions worked with mental health experts throughout the health system to facilitate wellness-rounds on the floors, host debrief sessions after adverse patient encounters, staff behavioral health employee-only hotline, and establish respite rooms for employees. The 2021 Pinnacle Award for Quality and Patient Safety recognizes initiatives that improve the quality of healthcare delivery in New York.
“We were fortunate to already have the foundation of our Helping Healers Heal program before the pandemic, which allowed us to quickly scale up and expand services when our healthcare heroes needed the emotional and psychological support the fastest during the early weeks of the pandemic,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Eric Wei, MD, MBA. “Our health system is committed to continue to offer these critical support services to all employees, incorporating lessons learned through the pandemic, while also breaking down stigmas associated with mental health support that create negative and potentially unsafe environments for healthcare workers.”
“I would like to congratulate Dr. Suzi Bentley, who coordinated much of our emotional support services during the pandemic, and the entire Helping Healers Heal team on winning this well-deserved recognition from HANYS,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst CEO Helen Arteaga-Landaverde, MPH. “Their compassion, dedication, and heroic efforts to support the staff through the unimaginable mental and physical health toll caused by the COVID-19 outbreak helped our employees meet their own needs so that they could continue to effectively care for a community in deep crisis. I look forward to working with the H3 team to expand wellness programs at our hospital and ensure that our healthcare heroes have the tools they need to meet future challenges as we care for our patients.”
“On behalf of our amazing Helping Healers Heal team, it has been an honor and a privilege to co-lead this program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst,” said NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst Chief Wellness Officer Suzanne Bentley, MD, MPH. “We are so appreciative of the recognition from HANYS and the spotlight it has provided onto the power of peer support. No healthcare worker should ever suffer alone and now, more than ever, it is crucial that we support our healthcare heroes and have bravely vulnerable conversations around the need for emotional and psychological support to heal our healers.”
These programs, led by the system’s H3 teams in partnership with the Office of Behavioral Health and made available to all employees, are aimed at helping to identify and monitor distress, as well as to assist staff in resilience-building while aiding the utilization of recovery resources and coping support services. NYC Health + Hospitals continues to urge all staff members to seek mental health care to support their wellbeing during the pandemic and beyond.

Since the COVID-19 peak in NYC, programs led through NYC Health + Hospitals for staff mental wellness saw:

  • Over 40,975 proactive unit-based wellness rounds, which include mental health experts and peer-support teams actively engaging employees working in areas heavily affected by COVID-19. Wellness rounds focus on identifying and supporting employees showing symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and burnout, and connecting them to services if requested – including one-on-one telephonic, in-person debrief, or anonymous counseling;
  • Nearly 6,570 additional H3 debrief encounters that include group debriefs, 1:1 peer support sessions, and wellness events. These encounters are formally structured as open forum directives that are facilitated utilizing the skills of licensed creative arts therapists, other mental health practitioners, as well as H3 leads with the intention to allow thoughts and feelings to be expressed and shared verbally and nonverbally using the healing powers of creativity and art.  This provides frontline staff the opportunity to share their experiences in a safe environment with other staff who were experiencing similar days and stress;
  • Over 200 cumulative calls to the public health system’s anonymous behavioral health employee-only hotline, which connects employees in need of support with psychiatrists/ psychologists, and is staffed by NYC Health + Hospitals employee volunteers;
  • Approximately 84,942 visits to 31 respite/wellness rooms, allowing staff to take a break and engage in calming activities, such as meditation or crafting. Respite rooms are staffed by licensed mental health professionals standing at the ready to provide support to any staff that needed it.

The Helping Healers Heal program was launched at NYC Health + Hospitals in 2018 by President and CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz and Chief Quality Officer Dr. Eric Wei. The program is rooted in national research that points to health care providers as “Second Victims” of traumatic events commonly experienced in all healthcare settings. Since its launch, the program has grown to be more inclusive of compassion fatigue, burnout, complex and collective trauma, and more. All H3 teams include licensed mental health practitioners and other behavioral health experts.
All NYC Health + Hospitals staff members who may be experiencing mental health challenges are urged to seek support through any modality offered to all employees throughout the system.
New Yorkers interested in seeking out mental health support can reach out to 844-NYC-4NYC for an appointment at NYC Health + Hospitals, or by reaching out to NYC Well.