Prioritizing Mental Health for Nurses During Pandemic
A Psychiatry nurse brings his Psych First Aid Program to those on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19
During the pre-flight safety briefing on most airlines, the flight attendant will instruct adult passengers to put on their oxygen masks first before assisting children or others. This ensures that those who can help others have enough oxygen to do so.
Helping yourself in order to help others is an important message according to Alan “Tony” Amberg, APRN, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The message is part of his Psych First Aid Program, which he presents to nurses caring for those with COVID-19. Alongside his chaplain resident and nurse practitioner student, Amberg offers the program to help these nurses prioritize their mental health.
Amberg is a member of the Consult Psychiatry team. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, he now dedicates most of his time to helping nurses in the COVID-19 ICUs. He comes to their units and facilitates “wellness breaks” that allow them to talk about how they’re doing, and how they can support themselves and each other while still providing the best care possible for their patients. Amberg also facilitates breathing exercises to help calm nurses. On an average day, he may see as many as 11 different groups throughout the hospital, including nurses, techs and administrators.
I feel really lucky because I can support these nurses— Tony Amberg, APRN
Amberg, whose mom was a nurse working with people with tuberculosis, says the wellness breaks have been just as fulfilling to him as they have been beneficial to the nurses. “I feel like my mom is right here with me, helping these nurses,” he says. “I feel really lucky because I can support these nurses who are doing all the hard work.”
According to Northwestern Medicine Medical Intensive Care Unit Nurse Patrice Rosenberg, RN, the Psych First Aid Program has positively impacted her and her fellow MICU nurses. “It’s amazing to feel supported not just as a nurse, but also as a person,” she says.
The Spiritual Care, Social Work and Patient Engagement teams at Northwestern Memorial Hospital are also conducting "wellness breaks" to expand the program to more employees during the pandemic.