Healthcare Worker Mental Health in COVID-19: The Mount Sinai and NYC Experience

“We may not be able to control what is happening to us, but we can control how we treat one another”

-Charity Hospital first responder team, August 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Guest post by Dr. Ruth Berggren

With mortality and hospitalization rates due to COVID-19 soaring in Texas and San Antonio, health professionals are stretched to our limits. The hospital system stress score has never been higher, and this stress takes its toll on the mental well-being of every member of the health care team. How can we support mental and emotional wellness among front-line health professionals coping with pandemic exhaustion?

On Wednesday, July 15th, New York psychiatrist and Global Health professor Craig Katz and colleagues joined the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics for a special presentation entitled “Healthcare Worker Mental Health and COVID-19: The Ongoing Experience of Mount Sinai in New York City.”

In a 30-minute presentation followed by dialogue with San Antonio health professionals, Dr. Katz summarized the immediate mental health consequences of New York City’s spring pandemic surge. He then described employee mental health and wellness services provided by the Mount Sinai Health System at its six main hospitals during the spring of 2020. Dr. Katz discussed Mount Sinai’s strategic approach to employee mental health and shared impressions of its impact. He also shared about the long-term mental health services being rolled out now, explaining early experiences and the rationale and vision for what is being done after the surge.

A long-time friend and collaborator of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics, Dr. Katz is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Medical Education, and System Design and Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the founder and director of Mount Sinai’s Program in Global Mental Health. He organized the psychiatric response to 9/11 in New York City through an organization he co-founded, Disaster Psychiatry Outreach, including founding and directing the World Trade Center Mental Health Screening and Treatment Program for 9/11 responders. He has also been deeply involved in researching the mental health toll of child separation at Immigration and Customs Enforcement centers.

Dr. Katz holds numerous positions in the Mount Sinai’s Department of Medical Education, including as a Faculty Advisor for medical students; Faculty Director of the mental health program within the student run, faculty facilitated primary care clinic, and is Associate Director for Advocacy in the Mount Sinai Human Rights Program.

We are excited to share this presentation online in full, with the generous assent of Dr. Katz and his team, and hope that it can be a resource for all healthcare organizations who are hoping to support their teams through this pandemic.

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