During the COVID-19 pandemic, McLean Hospital clinical staff provided crucial peer-support and therapy to staff at the Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico. They were part of a longstanding Mass General Brigham program that aids health care workers who serve in the Navajo Nation reservation.
According to Karen Slifka, RN, MS, CS, nurse director for McLean’s Community Reintegration Unit, the program helped health professionals deal with the emotional stress and professional challenges posed by the pandemic.
“They were hit very hard,” said Slifka, who served at the medical center in May. “The hospital had their outpatient program shut down, staff were deployed around the hospital and given different jobs. Medical records file clerks were pulled out and put on the floor. Dentists from the clinics were pulled out and put on the medical floors. It was a difficult time for them.”
Cassandra M. Godzik, PhD, NP-BC, prescriptive authority nurse at McLean’s Lincoln Residence, spent a week in New Mexico in March. She explained that the Navajo Medical Center has a maximum capacity of 55 beds, but high COVID-19 case numbers in the region forced the center to, at times, take on more than 100 patients.
“There were limited resources,” Godzik said. “Not enough beds, not enough oxygen. Cell service and internet service were not reliable. It was well beyond the hospital’s capacity to manage.”
Along with the day-to-day logistical challenges of running a hospital during a pandemic, Navajo Medical Center staff faced tremendous stress, anxiety, and depression.
“Some people I worked with were frustrated with the system, and some were frustrated with other people on staff,” Slifka reported. “Also, many people had family members, friends, and neighbors die there in the hospital.”
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