Keeping local medics mentally sharp during pandemic
Dr. Lynda Thomas-Mabine is the past President of the Medical Staff and Chief of the Division of Gynecology at Chestnut Hill Hospital.
by Elspeth Lodge
Medical professionals have used various strategies to stay mentally healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic. The past President of the Medical Staff and Chief of the Division of Gynecology at Chestnut Hill Hospital, Dr. Lynda Thomas-Mabine, emphasizes the importance of physician wellness. “We have an administration that supports a community of wellness,” she said.
There are a number of initiatives Thomas-Mabine has helped shepherd, one of which is a physician wellness lounge. “We did that with hospital financial support and medical staff support,” said Thomas-Mabine. “We built this wonderful oasis.”
“It’s a quiet space, a small suite where there are two massage chairs, a place for physicians to sit and decompress when they need to, and it has a couple of booths to do some charting or if you need to get on the internet. It’s one of the highlights of the wellness program, having a space to go to when things get really, really stressful for you.”
The lounge was put in place before the pandemic hit, said Thomas-Mabine, and physicians at the hospital have used it increasingly. “I do see more of an influx of folks in the wellness lounge,” said Thomas-Mabine, who uses it herself: “I’m there for four days a week. I go down, get into that chair just to relax myself and maybe have a small meal at a little dining area that we have there. We’re checking in with each other for peer support. ‘Hey, how you doing? Is everything OK?’ People are stopping and recognizing and checking in with each other; I think even more so now.”
There is also a mindfulness training app for physicians to use and employment and employee assistance programs for physicians and nurses. Micah Maxton, 47, an Emergency Room nurse at Roxborough Memorial Hospital, also emphasizes mindfulness as a tool he uses to function at his best during the pandemic.
Maxton’s advice for other medical professionals while still fighting the pandemic? “You have to do something for yourself,” he said. “Whether it’s five minutes of just being still or going to the gym, it’s vitally important to take care of yourself, because if you’re not right, if you’re not taking care of you, you can’t take care of anybody else.”
An Intensive Care Unit Nurse at Roxborough Memorial Hospital, Chris Ferlanie, 49, notes the supportiveness of his coworkers upon returning to work in February, after being absent due to Covid-19. “Back in November of 2020, I ended up getting sick myself and was out for two-and-a-half months,” he said. “It was no joke. I finally returned back in February.”
In the past, Ferlanie used exercise as a tool to help him function optimally at his job, especially doing activities he enjoys such as working around the house and in the yard. He’s also an avid woodworker and cabinet maker.
Thomas-Mabine says one of the main wellness tools physicians have been using at Chestnut Hill Hospital is leaning on each other. “To have a community leadership that supports the wellness of the clinicians, whether it’s nurses or doctors or mid-levels, makes the difference in how we cope with this very challenging time.
“What makes Chestnut Hill Hospital so special is the family community that we have … It is a mantra that we hear over and over again, being respectful to each other. A sense of listening to other people’s opinions. And I think this pandemic has brought us even closer together. I don’t walk down the hall without someone saying, ‘How are you today, Dr. Thomas?’ And I give it back. ‘How are your kids? How is your mom? How is your dad?’”
Every patient Thomas-Mabine sees has either been impacted personally by Covid or had a loved one who has been affected or died. “So there is that simple sense of empathy. For you to say, ‘Hey, I understand your loss and my condolences to you … The community was significantly impacted in the early months of loss during the pandemic, especially In March and April, and it was devastating, but we held up as a community.
“One of the things I think was beautiful was that the nurses … instituted a policy where they have a moment of silence, collectively, around the transitioned patient. They respected that human being as not just a patient but as a human being and fellow community member. We’ve been through a lot of pain together, but there’s a sense of community resilience and connectedness that has come out of it … It strengthens us even more as a community to recognize the stress that Covid has put on physicians and clinicians.”