Day after day our dedicated Alameda Health System (AHS) staff continue to provide support, hope and exceptional care for our patients and communities.  Even during these incredibly challenging times the courage, commitment and compassion you bring to serving all is truly awe-inspiring.

I want to express my sincere gratitude for everything you do, and I want to acknowledge the incredible physical and mental toll this pandemic has taken on all of us. It has been widely reported that many health care workers across the country are experiencing burn out from the stress and as a result, they are often sacrificing their own health and wellbeing.

At AHS we are committed to supporting your overall wellbeing not only to prevent burnout but to enable you to flourish in body, mind and spirit. To create a workplace culture of wellness and prevent burnout, AHS has developed many programs and resources available to everyone.

One of the most recent programs AHS has implemented is Schwartz Rounds.

Schwartz Rounds are conversations about the emotional impact of work. They focus on providing support for the emotional and social aspects of medicine, those aspects of caregiving that we often don’t talk about and that can keep us up at night.

The first virtual Schwartz Rounds kicked off last week with the theme, “What Helps When We Feel Helpless.”  The panelists Dr. Charlotte Wills and Dr. Evan Rusoja shared their experiences from the start of the pandemic with the arrival of the first COVID positive patient at AHS-Highland Hospital from the Princess Cruise ship that docked in the Port of Oakland in March 2020.

They shared how with the help and support of colleagues they were able to cope while navigating the unknown and how they found ways to manage their stress along the way. Reaching out to others who were going through the same experience proved invaluable and finding ways for self-care was essential.

There is a tremendous amount of power in shared experiences. Humans need social connection and mutual feelings of vulnerability and stress often create some of the strongest social bonds.  The support of colleagues can make a huge difference in your day-to-day wellbeing and your ability to care for patients.

Each month Schwartz Rounds will feature a new topic or theme and panelists will share their specific experiences along with what helped them get through. I encourage you to participate.

In addition, our Employee Wellness Program has made other resources available to you including Mindful Monday Meditation webinars held at noon to help ground you in the moment and relieve stress. I encourage you to visit their Healthy Me intranet page for more healthy tips.

I also don’t want you to forget about our Let’s Go for a Walk sessions where we can relieve stress as we get to know each other and build community. I personally invite you to join me for a walk this week on Thursday, September 16 at 6:30 p.m. The walk will begin at the San Leandro Marina’s Mallard Picnic Area at Marina Park. Your families, friends and dogs are all welcome. More walks are planned and information will be posted on our intranet as it becomes available.

In addition to physical activity, which is critical to both mental and physical health, AHS provides learning forums to support wellbeing.

The Healing Our Health Care Heroes retreat held in June and presented by AHS and the AHS Foundation in partnership with 1440 Multiversity was designed to promote the mental health and wellbeing of health care workers. The retreat focused on creating a renewed sense of purpose for participants and an increased knowledge of how to better care for themselves and the patients they serve.

Please remember that you can’t take care of patients if you don’t take care of yourself.  I encourage everyone to take some time and find activities that bring you joy and allow you to recharge.

It may be hiking or biking on the many beautiful trails in the Bay Area, or it could be curling up with a good book.  For me, I like to recharge by taking a long walk…surprised, right?  I also spend time with my loved ones.

Together, we can beat burnout by being proactive in managing stress and not letting stress manage us. It’s important to remember that helping hands need help too.

You are not alone. If you are seeking additional support, please take advantage of these available resources.