Cedar Rapids organization forms support group for medical professionals during COVID-19

Updated: Jun. 14, 2020 at 10:00 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Kati Carpenter, a family nurse practitioner with the Eastern Iowa Health Center in Cedar Rapids, has been on the frontlines of COVID-19. She said it’s been nothing less than stressful.

“We often spend time making sure our patients and our family members are healthy, and even more so now with COVID,” Carpenter said.

The challenge: trying to take care of her patients while keeping herself safe--physically and mentally.

“There are stress and trauma after a traumatic accident or something,” Carpenter said. “Well, during this pandemic, I think this is similar trauma that providers and front line staff are experiencing.”

It’s stress like this that Lindsey Piper, a therapist with Covenant Family Solutions, said can present a risk for medical providers.

“I think what COVID has shown, for us, is that this was always a problem,” Piper said. “Health care providers are more at risk for mental health issues, more at risk for suicide and they really need to take care of themselves just as much as they’re taking care of other people.”

That’s why Covenant has developed “Helping the Helpers: A Support Group For Medical Professionals.”

“It’s going to be a six-week, closed support group with some psycho-education material,” Piper said. “So we’re going to be talking about compassion, fatigue and burnout as well as vicarious trauma.”

Vicarious trauma happens when someone internalizes symptoms of trauma by being a witness to serious injuries or death.

“Just being a witness to trauma in the ER, seeing really sick people, seeing really serious injuries--this can affect providers and give them symptoms of traumatic syndrome which often looks like PTSD," Piper said. "So issues of anxiety, hypervigilance, issues with productivity, having a hard time focusing on work--this can show up in a lot of different ways for people.”

She hopes Helping the Helpers will be a relief for these frontline workers. The groups will be held virtually to protect privacy and will cover a variety of topics including burnout.

“I really want them to understand that if they are experiencing burn out...they have they help through their peers and through the community, and just hopefully being able to better take care of themselves and the way that they need to,” Piper said.

Carpenter believes this is something that could come in handy.

“It never just hurts to talk to somebody and you could be a listening ear for them,” Carpenter said.

Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who want more information about the sessions can call 319-375-3119 or go to www.covenantfamilysoultions.com.

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