April 15, 2021
Center for Traumatic Stress: To help employees, their families, and members of the community who are struggling with feelings of trauma, grief and loss as a result of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Northwell Health has established the Center for Traumatic Stress, Resilience and Recovery.
Resilience services have been designed to help employees deal with stress before it overtakes their lives. This work will be performed by clinicians trained in the treatment of trauma-related conditions and symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and more.
Mayer Bellehsen, Ph.D., director of Center for Traumatic Stress, noted that “While our health care workers embody strength and resilience, the persistent stress caused by the pandemic can take a toll on anyone,’’ he said. “Northwell is pioneering in the establishment of the CTSRR to enhance resilience among employees and to address the traumatic stress caused by COVID-19. We want to make sure that our team members have the resources and support they need to adapt and thrive.”
During a press conference to announce the center’s opening, three staff members who served on the frontline during the pandemic – an emergency room doctor, an intensive care nurse, and an environmental services worker – shared their personal insights as well as videos recounting their work during this critical year and how it has affected them, both on the job and at home.
“The next phase of this pandemic will be the fallout from all the trauma our front-line workers have seen during this time—loss of lives, isolation, separation from family, and so much more,” said Fred Davis, DO, associate chair of the Emergency Department at Long Island Jewish Medical Center (LIJ). “A center of this type will validate the feelings of all those who served on the front lines.”
Elyse Isopo, NP, an intensive care nurse at North Shore University Hospital, spoke with emotion about the toll COVID-19 continues to take on her and her colleagues.
“This past year was something that no one has ever seen before,” she said. “We were saying goodbye to patients every day and the memories of that continue to be very painful. Now that it’s slowing down a bit, we all have more time to reflect on what we’ve seen and how to process all of these experiences. That’s why this center will be so important to so many people.”
One of the most powerful stories belonged to Carlos Rivera, who serves as an environmental services worker at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. Mr. Rivera’s grandmother passed away from COVID on April 4, 2020. His beloved father passed away from the disease 10 days later on April 14, one year to the day of the center’s announced opening.
Mr. Rivera, a COVID-19 survivor, said, “In a very short time, I lost my grandmother and my father. During this time, my co-workers at the hospital were scared. We were all scared…we had no idea what was happening. We’ve all experienced so much loss…I can’t express how important this center is to people like me.”
The CTSRR, led by Dr. Bellehsen, represents a partnership of the health system’s Behavioral Health service line with Human Resources and the Department of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention.
“Northwell is committed to supporting the comprehensive well-being of our team members, including helping them manage the stress generated by COVID-19 and other factors,” said Maxine Carrington, senior vice president and Chief Human Resources Officer. “We are proud to be standing up this novel program. The innovative services at Center for Traumatic Stress will provide supports to our team members and their families so as to build resilience and address the impact of these stressors.”