The emotional burden of caring for so many during a global pandemic may lead to problems like adverse events, poor quality of patient care, increased costs, and staff turnover. And while measures to promote a healthy work-life balance can help, these are difficult to achieve in the ongoing pandemic.
One hospital system, Northwell Health, created an interdisciplinary group of healthcare professionals known as Team Lavender (TL), who support staff during times of ongoing crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic. TL was recently featured in Nursing2021 as an example for other health systems for how they can better support employees.2
Key features of Team Lavender
Northwest Health employs more than 72,000 people across 23 hospitals and 800 clinical practice locations across New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County, NY. As such, many of their employees delt with dramatic surges in patients during the pandemic.
Team Lavender was implemented in 2014 after leadership recognized a series of challenging events on a maternity unit at one of the system’s tertiary academic facilities. The team was developed to provide a more formalized and structured response to such events. Now, more than 20 hospitals across Northwest Health utilize TL as a resource to support staff well-being.
TL is not a replacement for any Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or professional counseling with a psychiatrist or psychologist. Instead, team members provide dedicated time and space for initial emotional peer support by facilitating reflection and teamwork.
Approximately 150 staff members from various professions make up Team Lavender, including:
- Behavioral health workers
- EAP professionals
- Patient experience professionals
- Shift leadership
Staff were selected to join the team based on their interest in participation in the program and their ability to emphasize and connect with other people. Multiple adaptive techniques are used in the course of their work, such as:
- Active listening
- Appreciative inquiry
- Breathing exercises
- Guided imagery
- Interfaith prayer
Any staff member may activate TL—the team’s response is either reactive or proactive. Reactive responses are immediate and involve time-sensitive issues, such as complex codes, a violent family member episode, or news of a colleague’s death. Proactive responses are planned and scheduled in response to anticipated situations, like prolonged high acuity.
Generally, those staff members who utilize Team Lavender resources report improved teamwork, increased trust on the unit, and better communication. They also felt like the organization as a whole cared more about their safety and well-being.
Team Lavender during Covid-19
Members of TL adapted their approach to improving staff well-being during the Covid-19 pandemic though a variety of remote offerings. These included:
- App-based resources
- Emotional support call centers
- Interfaith prayer hotlines
- Virtual education
Additionally, the team developed leadership tool kits to help connect employees and their families with wellness resources.
Team Member Resource Tranquility Tents (TMRTTs) were a unique offering that created a devoted space for onsite wellness meetings to raise awareness for and promote programs and resources for hospital staff members. TL was incorporated into the TMRTTs, and eventually the tenets of Stress First Aid (SFA) were included as well. SFA is described as a flexible, pragmatic self-care and peer support model which includes seven tenets to identify and address early signs of stress.
Northwell Health continues to focus on the well-being of their employees. Programs like Team Lavender can and should be integrated throughout other healthcare organizations nationwide.