There are dozens of signs flanking the roads and sidewalks across the McLean campus. Their messages include personal expressions of gratitude and encouragement from donors, patients, and hospital leadership for the counselors, nurses, food service workers, maintenance staff, doctors, and countless others who have enabled the hospital to continue fulfilling its mission during one of the most challenging periods in its 200-year-plus history.
The messages are a visual reminder of the months-long community effort to support the hospital and, in turn, its patients. And while medical hospitals have borne the brunt of the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, McLean is now rising to meet the surge in need for acute psychiatric care—a need that is expected to increase in the months and years to come as the full toll of the coronavirus becomes apparent.
“Historically, in the wake of major disasters or other large-scale traumatic events—such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina—we have seen a rapid rise in mental health needs that endure for months or years to follow,” said McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD. “Fear of illness, physical isolation, economic impacts, the death of loved ones, and the disruption of normal traditions and routines all represent potent stressors as well as factors that undermine resilience. In tandem with the vital services provided in general hospitals, from emergency rooms to ICUs, for the medical manifestations of COVID, the psychiatric consequences of this pandemic likewise pose a profound challenge to global public health. This crisis requires rapid adaptation, innovation, and growth of psychiatric services. McLean is nimbly rising to meet that challenge, along with our colleagues in the field, appreciating that we will be dealing with these ramifications for years to come.”
Reimagining Mental Health Care
Like every other health care organization, McLean has had to rethink and revamp many aspects of its operations during the pandemic. To ensure an effective response to this public health crisis, Rauch immediately activated the hospital’s Incident Command Team to work in conjunction with similar teams across Mass General Brigham (formerly Partners HealthCare).
Inpatient programs have remained open throughout the surge, although with initially reduced capacity and new processes aligned with infection control and social distancing guidelines. McLean, already at the forefront of testing and adopting technological innovations, rapidly pivoted to launch telehealth systems for outpatient clinics, partial hospital programs, community-based programs, and schools, and in residential settings where possible. The virtual care model was actualized a full two to three years faster than anticipated due to COVID-19.
Caring for the Caregivers: The COVID-19 Fund
Staff on the front lines of patient care, as well as employees in areas like housekeeping, security, and facilities, continued to show up day after day, despite the challenges and ongoing strain of the pandemic.
“Our staff have shown extraordinary grace under pressure, thoughtfully adjusting to reassignments and new safety protocols without sacrificing care,” said Paula Bolton, MS, CNP, ANP-BC, co-leader of McLean’s Incident Command Team. “Their efforts have made our whole community profoundly safer.”
McLean’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, created and sustained through the generosity of the hospital’s donors, has provided much-needed assistance for the most affected hospital employees. The fund has been used to provide thousands of meals and other caring supports to show gratitude for employees’ sacrifices during a very trying time.
Recognizing that our staff has endured substantial stress and widespread and uneven hardship, both personal and financial, Mass General Brigham (MGB) established the Employee Grant Fund to mitigate the financial impact faced by some members of our workforce. McLean—along with other MGB affiliates—contributed to this fund, which enabled us to award nearly 300 $1,000 grants to McLean employees experiencing financial difficulty due to COVID-19.
In addition to cash contributions to McLean’s COVID-19 fund, our donors contributed personal protective equipment, food, hand sanitizer, and a several innovative items geared toward supporting our staff.
While the pandemic has caused widespread economic and human suffering, Rauch believes there will be some silver linings for health care overall, and McLean specifically. “Post-pandemic, we will be closely analyzing all of the changes the crisis forced on us in order to integrate some of them into our new normal,” he said.
McLean continues to benefit from the support and generosity of its donors. Contribute to the COVID-19 fund.