As the professional practice lead for social work at Covenant Health, Andrea Oiffer had been hearing concerns from social workers on the front lines about burnout and compassion fatigue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing that the concerns weren’t isolated to one site or organization, she and her counterparts from Alberta Health Services (AHS) came together through their provincial social work council to offer support as part of this year’s Social Work Week.
“It was the first time this kind of approach was taken to really collaborate on celebrating Social Work Week and also acknowledge the stressors that frontline social workers around the province have faced since the start of the pandemic,” says Andrea.
The group developed a set of tools and resources, including presentations on moral distress in strange times, virtual grief groups: a social work response to the pandemic, and the impacts and experiences of social workers during COVID-19. They distributed the tools and resources to social workers at Covenant and AHS sites throughout the province.
Such collaboration is one example of how Covenant teams have come together across sites, with other organizations and with their communities to find solutions to the challenges of the pandemic. COVID-19 has changed the way teams approach some of their work, and the new collaborations it has fostered have been vital to supporting patients and residents.
For Covenant Care sites such as St. Teresa Place in Calgary, collaboration with telecommunications provider Telus has brought a new way of offering recreational programming to residents during the pandemic. Through live-stream technology, residents can play bingo, take part in exercise programs and watch plays, concerts and other productions in the safety and comfort of their suites via a special television channel.
Stephanie Rogers, recreation therapist at the Calgary facility, says the technology has enabled residents to keep active and engaged beyond having virtual visits with family members. “It’s a great feeling to know that they are taken care of."
Sites throughout Covenant have also partnered with their communities to lift the spirits and support the well-being of those in their care. Community members have provided musical and dance performances, car parades, animal visits, children’s art and countless donations of everything from flowers and gift cards to handmade face masks.
“The rallying of the community has been astounding,” says Sheli Murphy, senior operating officer, rural services. “And staff have stepped up to do everything they can to help make the community support happen.”
Other examples include new research collaborations that are providing vital new knowledge to apply to pandemic challenges. Covenant organizational development staff have teamed up with researchers from the University of Alberta to study the effects of the pandemic on workplace culture. And Covenant medical teams at the Grey Nuns Hospital and Misericordia Community Hospital are participating in clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of medications for treating COVID-19 in hospitalized patients. The trials are part of a large multiphase and multicentre study being conducted across Canada and the United States.