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Caring for Healthcare Workers’ Mental Health During COVID-19

Free mental health resources for UCSF Health staff help cope with workplace stress heightened by the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on healthcare workers’ well-being. To help them cope, University of California San Francisco Health is offering free clinical behavioral healthcare and curated online mental health resources for staff.

“When we prepared for COVID-19, we identified emotional stress as a significant secondary effect of the pandemic,” said Dr. Weston Fisher, a psychiatrist at UCSF. “Our provider peer support program has been growing for years, so we were able to expand it just weeks after we started seeing patients with COVID-19.”

UCSF’s Caring for the Caregiver peer support program was originally designed to help providers cope with stressful clinical situations such as the death of a patient – an event that sadly became more common during the COVID-19 outbreak. Providers who participate are connected with colleagues who volunteer for supportive, confidential conversations. Often, those conversations are all a provider needs, but the program can also serve as a bridge to clinical care when necessary.

Those experiencing emotional distress can also complete an online questionnaire to evaluate the need for mental health treatment. If a behavioral health visit might be beneficial, it’s available often at no out-of-pocket cost through USCF’s COPE program. Epic is used to schedule each staff member’s appointment and ensure their information is kept confidential.

“It was important to us that this program be open to all of our staff, not only clinicians,” said Dr. Elissa Epel, a professor of psychiatry at the UCSF School of Medicine and a member of the team that created the COPE program. “Anyone can experience stress from the isolation, relationship pressure, and financial insecurity that has followed the pandemic.”

UCSF Health has also developed a public webinar series that features mental health and emotional wellness experts and has curated resources including a list of wellness and mental health apps and mental health hotlines. Anyone can access these resources, and UCSF is also providing staff with free access to apps that typically require a fee.

Read more about the mental health resources that UCSF has provided during COVID-19 at the USCF Department of Psychiatry website. Learn about Epic’s tools for treating behavioral health during COVID-19 in the Behavioral Health topic in the Managing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) With Epic white paper, which is updated regularly with recommended build and workflows.