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Clinicians Are Traumatized Because of COVID-19. Witness to Witness Helps.

By Kaethe Weingarten, PhD, MCN’s Director of Witness to Witness, Pamela Secada, MCN’s Witness to Witness Program Manager, and Jessica Calderón, Witness to Witness Program Associate

[We are in the final days of our end-or-year campaign! You can support Witness to Witness to ensure that clinicians on the frontlines have the support they desperately need. Donate today and help us meet our fundraising goal.]

Dr. Madaras is a clinician we know well at Migrant Clinicians Network.  As our Chief Medical Officer, he shares with us not only the most up-to-date medical information we need to do our jobs well, but also what frontline clinicians experience day to day. While remaining professional at all times, he must stay aware of the range of feelings he has throughout his shifts at the hospital and use tools to cope with these feelings, be they sadness, anger, frustration, despair, or happiness. Contentment has not really been possible with the pace of work during the COVID pandemic.

We hear confirmation of what Dr. Madaras tells us from the thousands of clinicians we serve. His experience is shared by vast numbers of health care workers. At MCN’s Witness to Witness (W2W), we are gratified that the services we provide have been helpful to him, to his colleagues with whom he has shared our materials, and to thousands of other frontline clinicians we have helped with our W2W programming. We provide a range of services. The primary components of W2W are online seminars in English and Spanish (many of which are archived on our seminar page), facilitated virtual peer support groups in English and Spanish, facilitated learning collaboratives, consultation, a resource-rich website, and handouts in English and Spanish on a wide range of topics. 

We run our online seminars a little differently from the usual webinar format. We encourage participation through the chat and state at the outset that our goal is to use the chat to form community, even if a temporary one, so that participants can share experience.  We find that the chat becomes a source of validation for participants and when the content of the seminar turns to concepts like resilience and vicarious resilience, participants inspire each other. Recently, an online seminar attendee wrote this comment: “What a generous webinar! Thank you very much. The material is helpful to me personally and provides very usable content for developing a helpful program for our needy hospital staff to be enriched as well.” 

Likewise, the facilitated peer support groups and learning collaboratives offer validation and support as well as new tools to cope with health care workers’ personal and professional lives. We form the groups with people from all over the country and so there is also the curiosity factor at play, learning how health care systems operate in different communities. In all of our groups we provide a balance between didactic material, time for discussion, and resource tools.  One participant in a peer support group told us this: “Each session brought me hope and clarity, so serving the community felt more attainable.” 

On occasion we also provide training for organizations in which staff are overexposed to stories of people who have traumatic histories and thus they themselves experience empathic distress. A team leader in one such organization wrote: “Thank you for adapting the trainings to our specific programmatic needs. The trainings provided us with the time to step out of our day-to day-work and stress, and process the emotional toll our jobs are taking on us. Thank you for your adaptability and in-depth knowledge of trauma-informed practices.”

The feedback is incredibly gratifying while it underscores how stressful and challenging the work is that these wonderful health care workers perform day in and day out, night in and night out.

The Witness to Witness program is here to help the helpers.  Please consider donating to W2W so that we can continue to help these frontline clinicians keep on keepin’ on!



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