BOSTON, MA (WFSB) -- Medical workers have been working nonstop since the coronavirus pandemic began, which has led to massive burnout nationwide.

However, research in Boston may have found ways for healthcare workers to combat this.

Karen Miguel has been a nurse for 35 years.

In the last 20, she's been working in quality and safety at Massachusetts General Hospital, or MGH.

She said while the pandemic started with exhilaration and strong comradery in healthcare workers, it's now turned into exhaustion.

"I think nurses have seen a lot more death than they want to say they've seen in the last few years, particularly the hardest hit are our youngest nurses,” said Miguel, who is a Patient Care Services Staff Specialist, Office of Quality, Safety and Practice.

Dr. Elyse Park is the director of Behavioral Research at the Benson-Henry Institute at MGH.

"Clinician burnout is based on people having just a sense of feeling not valued and overwhelmed and overworked,” Park said.

She and her team saw red flags in February 2020, before the pandemic ramped up in the country, seeing data suggest a decline in mental health in healthcare workers in China.

"We thought based on the anecdotal and data that was coming out of China, that we really started, had to think about, how do we help and support our clinicians and health care workers at MGH,” Park said.

From March to June, Park and her team had 17 groups of frontline healthcare workers go through their SMART program.

SMART stands for stress management and resiliency training.

Virtually, they met twice a week in sessions with mental health clinicians, giving space to talk out what's stressing them.

"Frustration with not having control over your work hours, frustrations with changes going on with isolating yourself from your family,” Park explained.

The goal was to better their resiliency, their ability to bounce back after dealing with adversity.

"What we found was after the groups were done, people reported that they were able, they felt less lonely and isolated. They felt less emotionally distressed, they felt more resilient, and we really felt that we were able to meet the needs of clinicians during this early period in the pandemic,” Park said.

Dr. Park added that the study showed to prevent burnout, healthcare workers need to know what they need.

That's how they'll know to see their own red flags.

Also, knowing how to reach out, develop that same comradery they had when the pandemic began.

"Clinicians need to understand that most clinicians are struggling during this time and that this might be new for them to be able to seek help in a way they hadn't needed to or really thought about before,” Park added.

Miguel says in her department, they followed a similar model to what Dr. Park did.

"We organized quickly and started to realize that time and space were the two things that staff needed.

They needed time to talk and the dedicated space to share, be heard, be validated,” Miguel said.

The response there was also positive.

"When they're doing what they believe is good, and right and they have what they need to do their jobs, then they take care of their patients,” Miguel said.

While it’s important to have group support, Park says healthcare workers need to cultivate individual support, too.

She suggests have an exercise routine, a healthy diet, or even meditate.

Copyright 2021 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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