An online sanctuary for care providers during the pandemic

Annual Report 2019-20

A group of faculty members have created a website that teaches techniques for mindfulness and self-care.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on care providers in Canada and caused an increase in symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

As COVID-19 began to transform Canadian healthcare a group of independently trained faculty members wondered if the they might use their experiences teaching mindfulness help ease the burden of healthcare workers. A colleague put them in touch with each other and together Drs. Jennifer Hirsch, Mary Elliott, Diane de Camps Meschino, and Orit Zamir swung into action and began offering weeknight online drop-in mindfulness sessions to teach providers self-care while helping them reduce stress and recharge.  Dr. Paula Ravtiz joined the group to provide research mentorship and support.

Together, they created Pause4Providers, a virtual venue that hosts 30-minute mindfulness sessions for health care providers every weeknight, on a drop-in basis. Starting out as an online meeting group that grew via word-of-mouth, Pause4Providers is now a stand-alone website that serves a wider audience.

“Supporting our colleagues through the pandemic has been the call to action that both compelled and united this group. We can only hope the spirit of collaboration that is seen within our initiative (both within the organizers and participants), crosses sectors and nations continues well past the pandemic,” says Dr. Meschino.

Dr. Elliott agrees. “It has been rewarding to create a sense of connection and community using this online platform.”

Mindfulness is an evidence-based practice and has been shown to support well-being by helping to alleviate stress, enhance emotional regulation, and bolster resilience. Pause4Provider sessions teach mindfulness as they guide participants through breathing techniques, self-compassion practices and mindful movement exercises. They also teach short practices that can be incorporated directly into the workday, including mindful handwashing and grounding in the body.

The website has garnered praise from healthcare providers across the country, who have found that the sessions bring a welcome dose of clarity and calm to their daily routines.

"These sessions provide contrast to the stress of the news cycle, the anxiety of donning/doffing correctly, the uncertainty of the course and duration of this pandemic,” says Sherryn, a Canadian cardiologist, “I schedule and appreciate these few quiet minutes of reflection where I can set aside all roles and just be.”

“The pandemic has brought up many emotions for me, including uncertainty and helplessness.  Providing mindfulness sessions to our healthcare workers and hearing their words of gratitude and appreciation have made me feel valued and hopeful.  I am honoured to have this opportunity to help support our community during this difficult time,” says Dr. Hirsch.

The group’s continuing work has been supported by an Academic Merit Organization Innovation Award. If you know a healthcare provider or anyone coping with stress brought on by the pandemic, please tell them about Pause4Providers.