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Volunteers of America Provides Free Online Help for Frontline Workers Suffering Trauma and Burnout During COVID-19 | NEWS-Line for Nurses

Volunteers of America Provides Free Online Help for Frontline Workers Suffering Trauma and Burnout During COVID-19


Volunteers of America is one of the oldest charities in the nation, celebrating 125 years this year. It has almost 16,000 employees across the country including nurses, health-care staff, social workers and others who have served on the frontlines during COVID-19. The organization recognizes that frontline workers across the nation are facing exhaustion, trauma and burnout even now as COVID-19 begins to turn a corner.

During COVID-19, Rita Nakashima Brock, Ph.D., senior vice president and director of Volunteers of America’s Shay Moral Injury Center, adapted a program she had created for veterans, who had returned from combat, to fit the needs of pandemic frontline workers. Brock saw some similarities in the trauma the frontline workers were experiencing and what some combat veterans reported.

The program Brock created—Resilience Strength Time, or ReST—is an online confidential program for care workers wanting to lighten their emotional toll from the pandemic, support their peers and maintain doing the best for those who need them. Small group sessions of up to eight peers are scheduled every day and last just one hour. In each meeting, participants have the opportunity to share experiences and challenges they’ve faced or are facing. Trained peer facilitators guide the conversation with the goal of helping participants stay resilient and maintain positive commitments to their work.

The program is entirely free and confidential. “While Volunteers of America has been focused for the past 125 years on serving our most vulnerable populations, we realize that those who serve—the caregivers are equally important,” said Brock. “We have to take care of those who have selflessly taken care of so many others.”

Frontline workers across the U.S. are reporting ongoing trauma and fear that another pandemic may return and some are still seeing COVID cases. Some healthcare workers are questioning whether to leave the industry. Many have still not addressed their continuing fears, ongoing trauma and anxiety.

Two of Volunteers of America’s frontline caregivers, Kelly Tripp and Ronda Jones, carefully monitor and assist their co-workers in understanding the importance of seeking help if they need it. Tripp is executive director of the Volunteers of America Sojourn at Seneca Senior Behavioral Health Hospital in Tiffin, Ohio. Ronda Jones is director of nursing at Volunteers of America’s Laurel Manor Care Facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both locations have experienced patients with COVID-19 and deaths. Both worry about the ongoing physical and mental wellbeing of their co-workers. “I’m worried that, over the next few years we’re going to lose a significant number of health care workers to burnout and stress,” said Tripp. “Between the stress of caring for patients and filling in for sick co-workers, it has been an exhaustive year.”

“Throughout COVID, we’ve been forced to make quick decisions that could put others in danger,” Tripp explains. She offers the example of a wife who was in the hospital parking lot as her husband was being discharged from the hospital to a nursing home. The wife didn’t know if this might be the last time she could see and touch her husband. She wanted to kiss him. Tripp continued, “Even this small decision as to whether we follow the rules or show compassion and allow her to possibly kiss her loved one goodbye, depending on the near future outcome, could become a major haunting dilemma—either way. If one of them dies from this, it may forever weigh on our conscience.”

Jones has also had to make major decisions. Most of hers are regarding staffing. As cases rose at a senior center she was overseeing, workers became afraid to go to work. “They needed me to tell them it was safe and I couldn’t do that,” Jones explained. “Every day became a life-or-death situation and it will all remain a nightmare for me for the rest of my life.”

Christa Coats, a nurse at a Volunteers of America senior housing location in Hotchkiss, Colorado found herself handling laundry and helping cook meals as they became short-staffed. “It was a great team-building experience as we all pitched in to help wherever needed,” Coats said. She did mention that she went home nightly and immediately collapsed with exhaustion.

“Frontline workers nationally and those working for Volunteers of America are truly inspirational,” said Mike King, national president and CEO of Volunteers of America. “This has been an extraordinary testament to the human spirit.”

King continued, “Volunteers of America has many things to be thankful for in its 125 year history. Of all that we are blessed with, the people who work for us and our clients and patients that have fought hard to survive difficulties—these are our greatest assets.”

To sign up for the free ReST program or for more information on it, visit www.voa.org/REST

For more information on Volunteers of America, visit www.voa.org

About Volunteers of America
Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit, faith-based organization dedicated to helping those in need live healthy, safe and productive lives. Since 1896, our ministry of service has supported and empowered America’s most vulnerable groups, including veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, men and women returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, those recovering from addictions and many others. Through hundreds of human service programs, including housing and health care, Volunteers of America helps more than 1.5 million people in over 400 communities. Our work touches the mind, body, heart and ultimately the spirit of those we serve, integrating our deep compassion with highly effective programs and services. Learn more at www.voa.org

Source: Volunteers of America

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