How do we provide care without neglecting ourselves?
Psychosocial interventions for prehospital care teams
During the health emergency declared as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, psychologists from the Provincial Network for Mental Health in Critical Incidents (PROSAMIC)––an entity of the Bureau for the Management of Health Emergencies, Disasters, and the Hospital Care Network of the Ministry of Health of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina––designed and introduced measures (July 2020) for members of prehospital care teams aimed at preventing burnout and protecting the mental health of front-line response personnel.
The PROSAMIC network––which since 2005 has implemented direct response measures for people affected by critical incidents, provided prevention, promotion, and training activities for the staff involved launched an in-service group mechanism called “How do we provide care without neglecting ourselves?”. This mechanism includes experiential workshops that foster active listening, thought, discussion, and sharing as the preferred care mechanism, stressing the value of collective and personal knowledge and experience.
These workshops involve basic training in MHPSS, self-care surveys, expressing feelings, body mapping, information about good practices, and distribution of psychosocial orientation materials on team care strategies. Given the vastness of Buenos Aires province (over 307,000 km2), some measures were adapted for remote participation to cover the entire territory.
In light of this, a 24/7 on-demand telephone hotline was designed and implemented for confidential individualized care, along with a telephone counseling and follow-up system to provide psychosocial support for staff and close relatives in preventive isolation due to close contact with a potential or confirmed case of COVID-19.
To date, care and counseling have been provided to 1,037 workers in the provincial prehospital care system, either in person, online, or by phone. The last step in the intervention process includes the coordinators from the areas involved, making it possible to assess and integrate team care as an institutional public policy strategy. This process is ongoing: the pandemic requires the Provincial Team for Mental Health in Critical Incidents to continue promoting the construction of a public health system grounded in humanized practices that assist and protect those who care for the health of the community every day.