nurse sleeping
Category: Community Health, Faculty, Health Magazine

Title:Fighting both the pandemic and the stress of the pandemic

Author: By Camille Scarborough
Date Published: June 19, 2022

COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone, but especially those on the front lines and those caring for others. Physicians, nurses, medical and nursing students, administrators, hospital workers, lab technicians—so many people have stepped up in response to this health crisis. It’s been a professional challenge, but also a personal one. In addition to having stressful jobs, many are struggling with childcare, elder care, and even self care.

person mediating

In February 2022, MedStar Health launched the new MedStar Health Center for Wellbeing to further enhance a culture that supports health care worker well-being through programs and research. In addition to providing integrated peer support and mental health offerings, the center has established partnerships with resilience coaches, therapy experts, and wellness champions.


“It’s a story of resilience. We met the moment and will continue to grow.”

candles and rocks

“The past two years have highlighted the exceptional and unique role of health care workers and the many ways we need to grow our recognition of their work and support for their personal and professional well-being,” said Dan Marchalik, MD, MA, executive director of the new center and associate professor of urology at Georgetown School of Medicine. “By creating the center, we are both elevating MedStar Health’s internal well-being priorities and striving to serve as a national leader in well-being innovation, research, and education.”

Cura personalis on a national level

MedStar Health had one of the first physician well-being programs in the country. Beginning in 2017, it supported physicians who needed help managing day-to-day stresses, both at work and at home. When the pandemic hit in 2020, MedStar Health made sure everyone had access to the services.

“The infrastructure was already in place so we were ready to scale up when the need for well-being increased during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains Marchalik. “It’s a story of resilience. We met the moment and will continue to grow.”

hospital workers talking
Recharge stations provide a respite from the stressful hospital environment while new programs help people cope with change and uncertainty.

Current services range from recharge stations—quiet break rooms, some with massage chairs and healthy snacks—to a regular podcast called “Scrub In.” An important component of the program includes wellness rounds to different patient units as mental health check-ins. “We want to meet people where they are,” adds Marchalik.

In addition to offering services, the center is engaged in education and research. The Stress First Aid Program, led by psychologist Heather Hartman-Hall, PhD, utilizes a framework adapted from the military to help health care workers cope with stressful situations.

“We are training people to be aware of their own stress and trauma, then triage it in themselves and others,” explains Marchalik. “The program is very intuitive, very comprehensive. It’s like a community support system with a common language.”

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