The collaboration between nurse and physician leaders helped CAMH weather the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new article by Dr. Gillian Strudwick, CAMH Scientist and former Interim Chief Nursing Executive, and Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, CAMH Physician-in-Chief. Published in Longwoods’ Healthcare Quarterly, the two spoke of the challenges experienced while working in mental health and addictions care, and provided insights from their involvement working together as nurse and physician leaders.
Strudwick said the inspiration behind the piece was the start of a closer working relationship with Dr. Stergiopoulos during COVID-19 as the two addressed both pandemic-related clinical challenges alongside the daily work and operations required of a hospital, research and education centre. Providing support for frontline staff and protecting patients were priorities.
“Those working in direct care roles during the pandemic can tell you how challenging and difficult it has been,” said Dr. Stergiopoulos. “The experience of patients at CAMH is quite closely related to the care experiences they have with our direct care staff like nurses and physicians. Direct care staff needs to feel supported such that they can care for CAMH patients.”
“It's kind of like thinking about the oxygen mask in an airplane. Direct care staff needs to feel supported such that they can care for CAMH patients. This was especially challenging during the pandemic,” Strudwick added.
The pair shared some key takeaways from their experiences:
- Clinical leaders must work side by side with their frontline colleagues.
- Technology should be leveraged to enhance patient care.
- We can work together across sectors to find solutions to key issues like vaccine uptake.
- Our voices should be aligned to advocate for patients and staff on a broader scale.
When looking ahead to a post-pandemic health care sector, Dr. Stergiopoulos spoke of the lessons learned during COVID. “They say, never let disaster go to waste. We learned a lot during the pandemic, and hopefully lessons learned will help inform the redesign of some of our services, in partnership with our patients and their families. Access to virtual care for those who need it, where appropriate, and new ways of working with community partners as a system, to facilitate better care, are but a few examples where I anticipate we’ll see lasting change.”
Strudwick hopes that mental health will continue to be top of mind as we return to a post-pandemic reality. “Throughout the pandemic there have been discussions particularly in the media about the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of our community members. I am hopeful that this recognition of the importance of mental health continues post pandemic in all facets—research, education, clinical care and policy arenas.”