Mental Health Awareness & Honoring our Healthcare Workers

Healthcare workers deserve more than parties and snacks.

I was fulfilling my case management responsibilities in the hospital last week and thus like many others in healthcare was eating a lot of food from all the celebrations. Last week we honored nurse’s week and hospital week. The American Hospital Association has chosen this year to “focus on the caregivers that have taken on unimaginable challenges and have risen to the occasion by working the frontlines during the pandemic and are continuing to stay as we try to recover and heal.” This message is so fitting as May is also Mental Health Awareness month. 

In between the celebrations, I listened to examples of staff adjusting to our current state of healthcare.  An SW came into the office needing to process the events of needing to remove a patient’s belongings from his body bag in the morgue to help locate and contact his loved ones. Not a typical occurrence these days however she was overwhelmed by the last two years where she never thought she would be discharged planning the dead. A UR nurse was upset in our staff meeting because we were discussing the plans to return one of the UR assignments to the ED. Although the UR workload has returned to normal, she was overwhelmed having lost another employee on the team to work from home employment and was nervous about going into the ED environment, given the last 2 years. 

A recent article was published in the Professional Case Management Journal by our very own Ellen Fink-Samnick discusses the collective occupational trauma and its impact on healthcare quality. The statistics are saddening in that 50 percent of nurses cited severe emotional toll related to staffing levels and workload intensity. Additionally, 75 percent of the healthcare workforce reported mental and physical exhaustion from the pandemic and almost half of the physicians are reporting burnout.

Recently, 5,000 nurses went on strike at Stanford’s hospitals requesting better pay, more staffing, and support for their mental health.  Additionally, one-day nursing strikes have popped up across the country with signs saying ‘burned out and tired’. And I don’t think we have seen the last of this.

So, to the staff that came into our office, I could not fix their experience, but I could listen and allow space for their trauma, and grief, and give compassion and honor to their requests and needed time to heal.  Although the week of food and treats is commendable, the bigger issue of ensuring safe work conditions for our healthcare workers is now a national crisis. 

To all the health care workers on the frontlines and behind the scenes keeping everything running.  I celebrate and honor you for your commitment to service. Cookies, snacks, and free lunch are not enough to say thank you and you deserve so much more!

To view this week’s survey about mental health awareness, click here.


Collective Occupational Trauma, Health Care Quality, and Tra… : Professional Case Management (

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Tiffany Ferguson, LMSW, CMAC, ACM

Tiffany Ferguson is CEO of Phoenix Medical Management, Inc., the care management company. Tiffany serves on the ACPA Observation Subcommittee. Tiffany is a contributor to RACmonitor, Case Management Monthly, and commentator for Finally Friday. After practicing as a hospital social worker, she went on to serve as Director of Case Management and quickly assumed responsibilities in system level leadership roles for Health and Care Management and c-level responsibility for a large employed medical group. Tiffany received her MSW at UCLA. She is a licensed social worker, ACM, and CMAC certified.

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