Caring for Our Healthcare Workers

by | Feb 23, 2021

As a nurse (Karin) and a public health professional married to a healthcare worker (Heather), we both knew in March of 2020 that the world’s healthcare workers and their families were about to encounter an overwhelming challenge. They would need all the support they could get.

HCW HOSTED is one answer to that need. Heather is one of the co-founders of our organization, and Karin joined us in fall of 2020 to lead the Physical & Emotional Symptom Monitoring Team.

Almost 200 healthcare workers1 and their families have used our services in the first 11 months of the pandemic. Through their feedback, we have arrived at three lines of services that our clients most want and need: housing, physical & emotional symptom monitoring, and peer support.

Housing

Healthcare workers who are seeking quarantine housing to avoid spreading COVID-19 to their families can contact HCW HOSTED for assistance finding a suitable placement.

Layla Henry, a nurse manager at a Tucson long-term care facility, was exposed to COVID-19 at work in 2020. Like many healthcare workers, she feared bringing COVID-19 home to her family, so she turned to HCW HOSTED for help finding alternative housing while she quarantined. Having an option for housing lifted a considerable burden for her: “I live in a multi-generational home. I knew I had been exposed to the virus and just didn’t know what I was going to do. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have HCW HOSTED at that time. They made it possible for me to recover and not infect anyone in my family or worry about that.”

Our primary role is to facilitate the placement. We act as a go between, matching healthcare workers with community housing resources, helping the healthcare workers manage the logistics of finding a suitable space, which gives them one less thing to worry about in a stressful time. Whenever possible, we cover part of the cost of that housing–either by facilitating donations or reduced rates from the housing providers or by using donated dollars to pay for the housing.

Psychological First Aid and Peer Support

The Psychological First Aid and Peer Support Team, led by Karin, assists healthcare workers and their family members by offering psychological first aid and emotional wellness support. HCW HOSTED has covered the cost of training a cadre of five healthcare workers and one public health specialist through the International Critical Stress Foundation peer counseling program.

This team offers healthcare workers an opportunity to speak with a peer in healthcare who understands some of the stresses and challenges they face at work and in their community. That additional support network has proven invaluable to healthcare workers suffering from fatigue, physical illness, and mental exhaustion.

Physical & Emotional Symptom Monitoring

Our team of psychologists, epidemiologists, and graduate students with University of Arizona developed a daily text or email check in for healthcare workers. It’s a quick check-in to monitor symptoms of COVID-19 and mental/emotional health.

If a healthcare worker identifies high levels of stress or other symptom alerts in their daily check-in, the Psychological First Aid and Peer Support Team reaches out to follow up with a listening, compassionate, trained ear and additional resources.

The symptom check-ins are a valued aspect of HCW HOSTED as evidenced by healthcare worker exit interviews. Nada Alkhiyat, a home health caregiver and single mom, expresses the reaction of many clients: “I felt I was in good hands. Someone was looking out for me when I had COVID. The calls helped me a lot.”

How to Connect to Services

If you, or someone you know, would like to enroll for any of our services, you can sign up through our Services portal (will open in a new window). If you would like to help us support our healthcare workers and their families, your donations would be greatly appreciated. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we depend on donations from community members like you to do our work.

 

 

Notes

1. The CDC defines “health care personnel” as paid or unpaid workers “who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials, including body substances; contaminated medical supplies, devices, and equipment; contaminated environmental surfaces; or contaminated air. ”These workers include not only medical providers but also “support staff” in areas such as food, environmental, security, and administrative services. The CDC estimates that under those definitions, there are 21 million health care workers in the United States.

 

Heather Dreifuss, DrPH, MAT, MPH is the Director of High School Outreach in the Navajo NARCH Partnership between Diné College and Northern Arizona University. She blends her background in anthropology, education, and public health through specializing in curriculum design, experiential teaching strategies, and cultivating learning communities. She is committed to integrating community voice into public health strategies through digital storytelling. Her research interests include building effective community-based public health programs and culturally relevant research capacity. When she’s not working, she loves to be surfing, kayaking, & taking in nature. She is HCW HOSTED’s Chief Experience Officer and Co-Founder. She leads the Services team and serves on the Messaging and Leadership teams.

Karin Blasko, MSN RN is a nurse educator and leads the Peer Support team at HCW HOSTED.

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