Support the emotional well-being of healthcare workers

Brave of Heart Fund grants assisted with efforts across the country to promote the emotional well-being of frontline healthcare workers and equip them to overcome challenges created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:

  • Piloting workplace and community programs providing support and resources to help medical professionals and allied health workers build resiliency and enhance their emotional well-being
  • Engaging healthcare leadership in creating change within their organizations
  • Breaking down systemic barriers preventing healthcare workers from accessing the support they need

While we are inspired by and honored to report the outcomes and statistics below, the need for continued work in this space was a consistent theme from all grantees and their programs.

$3 million

awarded

7

partner organizations

9,460

healthcare workers received direct services to build skills or manage their mental and emotional wellness

Individuals in

19

states served by these grants

26,179

healthcare workers were provided with resources to assess their mental and emotional well-being, build resilience skills, or otherwise enhance their mental and emotional wellness

Partner organizations and grantees include:

Recipient organization

MADE POSSIBLE By brave of heart grant funding

Interviewed and engaged with experts nationwide to understand the scope of the issues and barriers specific to healthcare workers, and highlight effective and innovative strategies being implemented to increase their access to care.

Developed Frontline Connect, an online toolkit and video resource library for the healthcare sector with proven strategies and best practices to make mental health services and supports more accessible to the workforce.

Developed a Licensing & Credentialing Strategy Tool Kit, providing a road map for insurance companies, hospitals, and state medical boards to evaluate and change overly invasive mental health questions on applications, which serve as a barrier to mental health access and are the key driver of suicide among healthcare professionals.

As of November 2023, successfully supported 26 state medical boards and 12 health systems, including 75 hospitals and 59 urgent care centers, in changing invasive and stigmatizing mental health questions in their licensing applications to earn recognition as Wellbeing First Champions. Actively working with additional states and health systems to do the same.

Secured state legislation in two states, Virginia and Illinois, establishing state-wide requirements to change or remove mental health questions in applications.

Partnered with the CDC to launch the Impact Wellbeing national campaign which direct all US hospitals to use the Foundation’s toolkit.

Initiating similar effort to analyze and address mental health questions in nursing licensure applications.

Completed 5 pilot projects testing approaches to support the mental and emotional well-being of healthcare workers with varying levels of depth and investment:

  • Training program to build healthcare worker resiliency skills
  • Training for CarePath™ Coaches to support frontline healthcare workers and their families
  • Implementing a warmline for healthcare workers in distress
  • Conducting educational sessions on workplace wellness
  • Developing and disseminating a mental health access handbook to non-medical healthcare workers

Widely disseminated pilot project findings to the MHA Affiliate Network, comprised of 143 affiliates nationwide, MHA’s Annual Conference attendees, MHA’s social media network, and MHA email distribution lists, with more than 40 organizations and affiliates expressing interest in replicating one of the approaches.

Tailored NAMI’s 1:1 peer support training curriculum for use with emergency physicians. Piloting the tailored program in partnership with the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2024.

Developed several mental health resources for healthcare professionals, including crisis cards with information about emergency support, a “how to talk to a peer” fact sheet and NAMI’s public policy statement on medical licensure

Supported four affiliates in piloting mental health education and support programs for healthcare and other frontline workers, including mental health screenings, peer wellness support coaching, and a frontline wellness webinar series.

Conducted comprehensive training sessions, both in-person and virtually, aimed at bolstering the emotional and mental well-being of frontline workers via free and charitable clinics within their communities. These initiatives were designed to enhance provider coping mechanisms, foster resilience, and promote a healthier workplace environment. Moreover, these sessions facilitated invaluable opportunities for peer exchange centered around mental health topics.

Distributed crucial mental health resources to healthcare providers, ensuring they had access to the necessary support and information for their well-being.

Developed and launched the Healing Healthcare Initiative, which supports and empowers healthcare leaders with resources and tools to ensure that their organization, workforce, and patients can continue to thrive. It provides healthcare leaders with a trauma- and resilience-informed approach to workforce well-being and enables them to address new challenges, align and integrate existing workforce initiatives that otherwise would occur in separate, siloed departments, and receive support themselves.

Developed a national program to provide training and support for hospital executives, leadership, and management to promote mental health among their staff, including group support to healthcare workers with a focus on grief and bereavement support.

Built out a tailored a menu of mental health training specifically for healthcare workers, enabling the organization to secure additional grant funding to continue to provide trainings for healthcare workers.

Piloted a hospital wellness event focused on mental, emotional, and physical health to help create a culture of wellness within the hospital.

Mental health and wellbeing are crucial in the healthcare field, and this grant served as the catalyst for the NAFC’s prioritization of emotional wellness on a much broader scale. Inspired by Brave of Heart, the NAFC put mental health center stage at our Annual Charitable Healthcare Symposium, instituted new organizational policies, and sought out partnerships that furthered this mission.

Ariana Gordillo De Vivero, MA
Director of Strategic Initiatives, NAFC

We recognize that culture change in healthcare has to start with leadership, and they need the support to drive culture change. This grant has helped us support system change work for the first time, to help leaders develop a deeper understanding of the overall mental health and wellbeing of their employees, aimed at trauma prevention rather than responding reactively to burnout.

Elizabeth Hickman
Chief Operating Officer and Interim CEO, Schwartz Center

It is hard to overstate how important and impactful the Brave of Heart Fund grant has been for the healthcare community. Everyone is flocking to this issue and we couldn’t have done this work without this funding. It was a transformational gift that helped catalyze a movement across the country and elevate the significance of the issue and the practicality of change. The work continues to give hope to healthcare workers in the midst of mass departures.

J. Corey Feist, JD, MBA
Founder and CEO, Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation

Themes across programs

Our non-profit partners and their programs addressed emotional health and wellness challenges among healthcare workers across the spectrum, from burn out and exhaustion to full mental health crises. To meet their unique project and organizational goals, our grantees leveraged varied implementation tactics and strategies, levels of support, and delivery methods. Although our grantees’ objectives varied greatly, and the breadth of their work was large, consistent themes emerged across their collective experience.

Mental health support needs to be normalized

Healthcare workers often need permission to make well-being a priority and reminders about why it’s critical; that “it’s okay not to be okay.” Stigma around mental health remains, and complete confidentiality is extremely important to this employee population. A key part of the work ahead is normalizing the concept of seeking out and asking for support, building trust, and ensuring healthcare workers have a deeper understanding of their rights and the rules of the workplace.

Role of leadership

Executives, once exposed to what wellness can look like, are interested in learning more and offering more to their staff. Healthcare leadership sharing their own lived experiences can make mental health and emotional well-being easier for employees to talk about and view their work environment as a safe place. It helps start the conversation. But anyone can be the catalyst for major change within an organization. Both top-down and bottom-up approaches have been extremely successful.

Importance of cultural competency and sensitivity

Cultural competency is highly important for supporting and treating all individuals, including healthcare workers. They want to be cared for, supported, or guided by those who understand their work-life culture and want their therapists to understand where they are coming from in terms of lifestyle, barriers, biases, etc.

Equip healthcare workers and leaders with tools, training, and knowledge

Training and tools matter – not just for clinicians or therapists seeing healthcare workers, but for internal employees who lead employee resource groups, or for managers and peers to help them better recognize when an employee might be struggling and need help. Healthcare workers and leaders know that mental health and emotional well-being are issues and need to be addressed, but many struggle and fall behind because they do not know where to start. They need tools to assess their own needs, tips to handle stress and burnout, etc.

Communication

Many healthcare workers do not understand their rights or the rules. They desire and appreciate tools to improve their emotional well-being, mental health and resilience, but communication about services, supports, and policy change about mental health is critical to employees accessing a better level of care. Employees need to hear messages repeatedly to believe them and take action, and through varied communications methods (digitally and in print, inside and outside the workplace, etc.).

Systems are strained

Capacity constraints and staffing shortages make it difficult for individuals and healthcare systems to make their own emotional well-being and mental wellness a priority. This is an overwhelming issue, and healthcare systems have difficulty analyzing their own systems to assess opportunities for improvement.