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Code Lavender addresses trauma and stress of health care workers

Posted on Jun. 29, 2020 ( comments)

Even in the best of times, health care is a highly demanding and taxing work environment. Adding a global pandemic into the mix has put stress levels at an all-time high for hospital workers everywhere.

A registered nurse who was deployed to swab patients for COVID-19 describes every day as “battling the invisible devil.”

MultiCare staff members are facing extreme emotional and physical hurdles every day, which is only amplified by the anxiety of trying to treat a virus that has no cure, the grief and helplessness of losing patients and the fear of exposing their own loved ones. 

Prioritizing the health and well-being of these employees is critical. One resource that allows MultiCare to do this year-round is a program called Code Lavender, which was originally established through generous donations through the MultiCare Health Foundation. 

The Code Lavender team is an interdisciplinary mix of colleagues, including physicians, nurses, chaplains, mental health counselors and others. The mission of the program is to promote employees’ personal and professional satisfaction, as well as resilience and joy.

The program achieves this goal through debriefings, educational presentations, reflection rounds, and spiritual care and support. In 2019 alone, they helped 588 employees in the Puget Sound Region. 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak meant that the Code Lavender team had to act quickly to address the sudden and changing needs of the system, which included expanding their work to the Inland Northwest.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been frightening for both patients and staff, so Code Lavender quickly added to its menu of regular services for employees to help with this,” Damian Gennette, Employee Wellness Coordinator, says. “These enhanced services have been designed to offer extra support during a highly stressful and uncertain time. We want our employees to be safe, calm and confident in order to provide excellent patient care during this critical health crisis.”

To comply with social distancing requirements, the team is now offering more opportunities to debrief with staff virtually. They’ve also introduced a twice-weekly meeting for MultiCare leaders to share the challenges they’re facing and strategies for success. A 24/7 support hotline is also available to all employees. 

These services are essential for health care workers beyond a pandemic. MultiCare works with a holistic philosophy concerning the health of mind, body and spirit. Code Lavender is just one program that recognizes that suffering in one area will affect other areas and that healing in one area will promote wellness in the others.

Lauren Gerty, a registered nurse at MultiCare Deaconess Hospital in Spokane says the experience is something she will never forget.

"I am forever grateful for Code Lavender,” Lauren says. “I was able to completely be myself and express my thoughts and feelings with fellow RN's I work with who were either there when the event happened, or had insight on a previous experience they have personally had. Our chaplain and social worker were there as fantastic support and asked purposeful questions that helped with my grieving process. This whole experience I will take with me for the rest of my nursing career. I am grateful we, as RN's, will continue to have these opportunities to debrief in very difficult times."

About The Author

Kortney Scroger

Kortney Scroger is a communication specialist for the MultiCare Foundations. She writes stories that connect readers to the impact of giving. You can reach her at [email protected].

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