PS1d – Team CARES: Supporting the Mental Health of Frontline Health Care Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

PS1d – Team CARES: Supporting the Mental Health of Frontline Health Care Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Friday, Oct. 28
14:30 – 15:30 (N/A)
Meeting Room: Cedar (Mezzanine)
Kathleen Sheehan*, MD, DPhil, FRCPC; Linda Liu, RN; Alison Seto, BSc; Jessica Campbell, RN; Alan Wai, MD; Alan Wai, MD; Sarah Beneteau, NP; Aideen Carroll, RN; Richard Yanofsky, MD; Susan Abbey, MD; Suze Berkhout, MD; Michelle Sukhu, MD, FRCPC

CanMEDS Roles:

  1. Collaborator
  2. Health Advocate
  3. Leader

At the end of this session, participants will be able to: 1) Appreciate the types of distress faced by health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic; 2) Discuss challenges to supporting health care workers during the pandemic; and 3) Describe the steps to implement and evaluate a program to support health care workers.

Objective: Faced with the challenge of providing mental health support to over 21,000 health care workers (HCWs) at multiple sites during the COVID-19 pandemic, we used a quality improvement approach to develop, implement, and evaluate a proactive team outreach program to support HCWs’ mental health, at University Health Network (UHN).

Method: The Team CARES program supplemented a modified stepped-care model for individual support and included both proactive and requested visits to inpatient units across multiple sites. The type of support provided included psychoeducation, information on resources, validation and normalization, as well as emotional support.

Results: The program is ongoing and we present data up to December 31, 2021. We have done more than 423 team outreach visits, with three-quarters being proactive. Over 250 have been focused on group check-ins, by visiting team huddles or meetings. The remainder include individual support and resource provision. Challenges include responding to institutional stressors, in addition to individual distress. Adjustments were made to the program to evolve with the pandemic, including staffing (the addition of nursing staff) and engagement strategies (the addition of snacks and written information).

Conclusions: Development of a high-quality internal program to support HCWs’ mental health is feasible, effective, and highly valued. Such programs need to be responsive and adjust to feedback, especially with an evolving situation like the COVID-19 pandemic.


  1. Pollock A, Campbell P, Cheyne J, et al. Interventions to support the resilience and mental health of frontline health and social care professionals during and after a disease outbreak, epidemic or pandemic: a mixed methods systematic review. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2020;11:CD013779.
  2. Billings J, Chi Fung Ching B, Gkofa V, et al. Experiences of frontline healthcare workers and their views about support during COVID-19 and previous pandemics: a systematic review and qualitative meta-synthesis. BMC Health Serv Res 2021;21:923.