While the COVID-19 virus changed plans, Dr. Robert Lam and members of the wellness committee remain committed to helping providers connect.
“We were committed to creating a social realm,” Lam said. “Though the virus put a screeching halt on our plans for events where providers could connect socially, we’re committed to meeting people where they are. Connectedness is just as important now – and maybe more so – than it was a few months ago.”
Over the next several weeks, Lam hopes to develop a peer-to-peer support network where providers can connect by phone or email if face-to-face conversation aren’t possible. News of the suicide of a physician working in an overwhelmed New York City hospital emergency department added a sense of urgency as the nation prepares for the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 patients. A second wave could also be mental health distress from the pandemic’s initial phase.
He encouraged providers to find what he termed as a “battle buddy,” someone who can provide a social connection during periods of high stress.
“A battle buddy is a colleague who checks in on us and who we check on from time to time,” Lam said. “We need someone with the perspective and who can tell us when we’re getting too close to the edge.”
He also recommended a personal crisis plan that echoes recommendations from various suicide prevention societies. Elements of such plans include
- Recognizing warning signs that a crisis may be developing.
- Utilizing internal coping strategies.
- Recognizing people and social settings that provide distractions .
- Knowing who you can call and ask for help.
- Knowing what the professional resources are for help during a crisis.
He also encouraged providers to accept a long-term view of the pandemic, understanding the discomfort we may feel is grief.
“Just like when we are caring for a loved one with an illness, the stages of grief often include denial, anger and bargaining,” Lam said. “Ultimately, the power and control lies in acceptance. To cope with the new reality, we can utilize living in the present moment, letting go of what we can’t control and having an abundance of compassion for ourselves and each other.”
He also recommended sharing experiences with others as a way of moving through them.
“Every crisis has an opportunity,” Lam said. “The key to our success in working through this crisis to a place of meaning is to be able to identify and create moments of joy in the midst of it.”
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