Kathy Reda, RN, BSN, has been a nurse at Newton-Wellesley Hospital for 30 years and has worked in the emergency department there since 1995. She was chosen by her ED coworkers last year to be part of a small group trained to help meet the emotional needs of clinicians and staff involved in patient harm events or unexpected medical outcomes. In March, as COVID-19 increased pressure on the ED, Reda organized drop-in peer support for all ED staff members.
What prompted you to begin the drop-in sessions?
Kathy Reda: Under normal circumstances peer support is a perfect fit for the fast-paced environment of the ED. Once we started seeing a lot of coronavirus patients, we knew we had a special need. The whole department felt it: This is real, and it's going to be scary. People are dying. We all have to gown and glove and mask and face shield before going into any room. At home, we undress in the garage and worry about infecting our loved ones. There are so many unknowns in this fluid environment. It became evident very quickly that we wanted to be able to gather together in a safe place even if just for 10 minutes.
How did your colleagues react? What have the sessions been like?
Kathy Reda: The first time we offered a drop-in session, just a few people came — a couple of nurses, a secretary and a physicians’ assistant. Then word got out, and more people came to the next one — physicians, techs, many nurses and someone from registration.
We have found you might not know what’s really going on for someone while you’re working next to them. When we get together and someone says, “That frightened me,” or, “I am afraid to go home,” and someone else says, “I feel the same way,” we all feel better. It helps decrease anxiety to know we’re not in this alone.
We don’t take attendance, we don’t take notes, and people can come and go as they please. We’re trying to do this at least once a week for each shift. It’s very simple. We’re just offering a quiet, private space where people can say what they're feeling with no pressure.