Funding supports efforts to improve mental health and well-being of health care providers.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded George Mason University’s Department of Health Administration and Policy in the College of Health and Human Services a $2 million three-year cooperative agreement to create a Health and Public Safety Workforce Resiliency Training Program. The goal is to support the mental health and well-being of the current health care workforce and preserve and enhance the psychological well-being of future health professionals.
“Burnout is not new to health care and public health professionals, but it has reached a crisis point due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Debora Goldberg, associate professor in the Department of Health Administration and Policy, who will lead the Program. “Health care professionals are dealing with longer work hours, inadequate staffing, sleep deprivation, and increased exposure to death and dying. All these factors lead to extraordinary levels of stress, burnout, and serious psychiatric symptoms, including increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide.” In addition to the health of individual workers, this also has a negative effect on patient care and health care organizations.
The mission of the Mason Health and Public Safety Workforce Resiliency Training Program is to develop and deliver accessible education and training activities that advance the overall safety, health, and well-being of a diverse population of nurses, social workers, public health practitioners, and leaders practicing in rural and underserved communities. Mason's interdisciplinary team will take a systems approach to address resiliency and optimal well-being of the individual within their health care organizations and working environments.
“The pandemic has shown us how vital it is to take care of ourselves, especially for our health care professionals who are facing immense challenges on the front lines of COVID-19,” said Senator Tim Kaine (VA-D) in a press release. “As we’ve seen the last two years, to ensure our nation has the medical workforce necessary to respond to public health crises, we need to support our health care providers.” Mason is one of three Virginia universities that received funding as part of the American Rescue Plan that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is distributing across the country to reduce burnout and promote mental health among the health workforce.
The Program at Mason is an interdisciplinary, collaborative effort. Nance Lucas, executive director of Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being will lead the Program’s short-term trainings. Cheryl Oetjen, Interim Chair of the School of Nursing; Holly Motto, Associate Professor of Social Work; and Ali Weinstein, Associate Professor of Global and Community Health, will serve as leads for curriculum enhancement in their departments.
Additionally, the program will draw on the expertise and outreach capabilities of a wide range of national and regional partner organizations, which will help the Mason Program understand the needs of health professionals in rural and underserved areas. National partners include America’s Essential Hospitals (AEH), the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). Regional organizations include the Northern Virginia Area Health Education Center (NVAHEC), Virginia Community Health Association (VCHA), the Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-VA), and the Virginia Association of Colleges of Nursing (VACN).
The Program at Mason will offer a variety of in-person and distance learning pathways to students and working health care professionals. The program will include special guest speakers in the Leading to Well-Being Speaker Series, Leading Thriving Organizations Certificate Program, a specialized Resilience Badge for frontline health workers, and the Mental Health First Aid Certificate program. Funding will also support enhancing the College of Health and Human Services’ curriculum to include evidence-based strategies to reduce burnout, suicide, mental health complications, and substance use disorders, and promote resiliency among health care professionals. Students will also use the College’s Virtual Reality and Simulation lab to prepare for challenging situations in an interprofessional team and learn strategies to increase resiliency.