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Scripps nurse Pantea Vahidi said healing is needed as health care workers fight the deadly COVID-19 disease. Courtesy photo
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Del Mar nurse launches virtual support group for healthcare workers

DEL MAR — Longtime Del Mar nurse Pantea Vahidi said she can feel the stress levels rise among her peers as more and more people worldwide become infected by the deadly COVID-19 disease.

Vahidi said she’s a part of several Facebook groups where health care workers share their frustrations in battling the disease.

“The news about a NY nurse committing suicide after caring for COVID-19 patients and testing positive was a testament to the fact that the mental and emotional pressure of what the COVID-19 outbreak has caused is not only worrisome but is now emergent,” said Vahidi, who practices as a medical-surgical registered nurse at Scripps Memorial Hospital.

“In previous work that I have done, I have seen and learned the healing power of compassion and I decided to provide that for my fellow healthcare workers.”

Pantea Vahidi

Vahidi said she hopes her new virtual group, “Caring for Those Who Care,” will provide that healing power to health care workers.

“I have seen some Facebook groups for healthcare professionals where they connect and exchange information, but I have not come across a group that offers live video calls to actually speak and provide care and support,” Vahidi said. “These support calls provide more than listening and sharing what is on their mind. I also share skills with them that helps improve their emotional state and shift their mindset, so they can move forward with more resilience and hope.”

Vahidi said health care workers face many obstacles as they work on the frontlines of the pandemic. She said workers are not only at risk of getting the disease, but their mental health can also be affected.

“I’m going to focus on highlighting the mental and emotional welfare of these heroes and heroines,” Vahidi said. “Healthcare workers all around the globe are suddenly faced with what looks like a viral World War III and they happen to be positioned on the frontlines of this battle with minimal mental or safety preparation. Healthcare workers have turned their lives upside down and take on risks that they weren’t prepared for.”

There’s also the physical burnout of tending to so many patients,  Vahidi said.

“Healthcare organizations have started investing in programs to remedy the burnout with different methods because the effects of it are tangible and disastrous,”  Vahidi said. “Burnout not only affects the provider’s well-being, it also makes healthcare workers more prone to medical errors, which in turn, puts patients’ lives at risk. So even in the absence of COVID-19, nurse burnout is a huge problem.”

These issues, among others, are just a few Vahidi said she hopes her group will be useful in addressing.

Vahidi said a virtual support group among peers is useful because health care workers may find it difficult to share their professional struggles with their friends or family members.

The support group, where sessions are held daily, is meant to be a readily available emotional first-aid kit, she said.

“My intent is for this service to support healthcare professionals – certainly nurses, doctors, hospital staff, but also inpatient, outpatient, acute, long-term caregivers, and anyone lending care,” Vahidi said. “I also want to offer calls for those working both day or night shifts. I’m hoping to reach healthcare workers from other countries as well, so I will add additional times to cater to healthcare professionals in other time zones.”

After all, she said, the art of nursing is to make people feel better.

“In the hospital setting, we take care of their mind and body; and since I cannot physically be there, I can still make people feel better virtually,” Vahidi said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been uncharted waters for everyone, but even more so, for healthcare professionals. Practicing under this amount of uncertainty and fear isn’t sustainable long-term, so this thought came to mind to respond to this very important need for emotional hygiene.”

For more information about “Caring for Those Who Care” or to register, go to www.PanteaVahidi.com.

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