The health care industry holds one of the highest rates of occupational stress even without a global pandemic. Specific workplace events in health care—often dealing with poor outcomes—can trigger high stress levels. This can increase workers’ risk for work-related injuries, absenteeism, restricted workdays, and even leaving their jobs. At University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, the COPE Team exists to help faculty and staff recognize and handle that stress.
The team is comprised of a range of volunteers including chaplains, physicians, social workers, psychiatrists, and more. The COPE Team strives to provide emotional support and healing to health care providers who’ve experienced difficult situations.
Having variety on the COPE team has its advantages. Sometimes it’s helpful for physicians to speak to physicians and for nurses to speak with nurses. Speaking with someone who can empathize with your situation can be beneficial to the healing process.
The COPE Team has three levels of support.
One of the most important tools utilized by the COPE Team is the team support meeting. The team support meeting is a group intervention to help health care providers normalize stress, identify coping mechanisms, and equip with additional resources for coping. The conversations during sessions revolve around shared experiences, and naming and discussing emotions people are feeling or struggling to manage.
The pandemic has impacted how the COPE Team has provided support. Early in the pandemic, virtual team support meetings were tried and found lacking. People didn’t want virtual meetings, they wanted a person. It really drives home the realization that people want human-to-human contact, especially during a difficult time. The COPE Team supported more than 800 staff at UI Hospitals & Clinics in 2021.
The COPE Team also trains staff to be peer supporters for their unit. Peer supporters provide first line support to peers following a challenging event. Individuals who desire to be peer supporters attend and complete Peer Support Training led by the COPE Team.
The COPE Team is always happy to care for and support the most important resource at UI Hospitals & Clinics: its people.