Fall 2020

Resilience in a crisis

A first-of-its-kind program supports the mental and emotional well-being of frontline health care workers

Messages of encouragement for frontline health care providers cover the windows at M Health Fairview Bethesda Hospital.

Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began in Minnesota, M Health Fairview anesthesiologist Brian McGlinch, M.D., noticed an uptick in anxiety among his colleagues.

It reminded McGlinch—who is also a U.S. Army Reserve hospital commander and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School—of the stress soldiers experience in combat. He wondered if the Army’s “battle buddy” system could be a useful tool for health care workers, too.

McGlinch proposed the idea to several U of M mental health specialists. In a week, they developed and deployed the Minnesota Resilience Action Plan (MinnRAP), a first-of-its-kind program aimed at supporting the mental and emotional well-being of frontline health care workers.

“No one gets left behind.”
C. Sophia Albott, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

MinnRAP includes the peer-to-peer “battle buddy” system, which pairs colleagues and encourages them to connect, share stories of success and stress from their day, express anxiety about work and life, and, ultimately, have each other’s back.

A second component, led by Sophia Vinogradov, M.D., the Donald W. Hastings Endowed Chair in Psychiatry, connects battle buddies with mental health specialists from the Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, which she heads. The specialists help participants develop personalized resilience plans grounded in best practices and encourage them to reach out for additional support if their stress and anxiety become overwhelming.

The goal is to create an environment where every frontline provider feels supported and empowered, says C. Sophia Albott, M.D., one of MinnRAP’s creators and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. 

When doctors feel supported and cared for themselves, she says, they’re able to provide the best care possible for their patients.

“With this program, everyone has someone who is invested in their well-being,” Albott adds. “No one gets left behind.”