Medstar Health adds worker wellness program – NBC4 Washington


We owe the healthcare workers a lot for the long hours they put in throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. A new program for MedStar Health employees aims to help workers meet the challenges of their stressful jobs and demanding schedules.

The Medstar Health Center for Wellness supports DC and Baltimore area employees with emergency child care, counseling and mental health resources so they can be better equipped to care for their patients.

“It really saved my life,” said Dr. Rachael Sussman, urologist at Medstar Health and mother of two young children.

Like many of us, she’s struggled with parenting and working during the pandemic, especially when it comes to finding backup child care.

Medstar Health provided verified child care providers at a subsidized rate.

The overall goal of the Center for Wellbeing is to help healers maintain a healthy work-life balance and improve their overall wellbeing, said executive director Dr. Daniel Marchalik. The initiative had been in the works for years, but the pandemic pushed it up the priority list.

“Now with COVID it’s really front and center, and we’re more aware of that than ever,” he said.

In addition to offering childcare and adult care for all employees, Medstar Health has added “recharge rooms” so workers can relax and regroup without having to leave their unit.

They’ve also added wellness rounds about 10 times a month, providing real-time support and stress relief to workers while they’re on time. They offer snacks, stress management strategies, and exercise in short bursts.

Nurse Crystal Morales said she had seen the benefits first hand. Through the training, she is able to identify colleagues who might need mental health support but don’t know how to ask for it.

“By teaching stress first aid, we were able to easily create a common language and check in with people,” she said.

Originally designed for the military and people dealing with post-traumatic stress, the Stress First Aid program helps people determine their level of stress by using green, yellow, orange or red to indicate how they feel.

Wellness programs are available to all 30,000 MedStar Health employees in the region. The hospital system collects research on best practices in hopes of sharing the information with hospitals across the country. The goal is to change the way healthcare workers approach their own health while caring for others.

For Sussman, the urologist and mom, the wellness programs have given her peace of mind so she can focus on what matters most.

“It takes that stress away and allows me to be fully present and focus my full attention on my patients, which is really the end goal of what I do,” she said.


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