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Grand rounds focuses on mental health, wellness

Feb. 4, 2021, 9:08 AM


by Matt Batcheldor

Advanced practice nurses, physician assistants and hospital leaders from around Vanderbilt University Medical Center gathered over Zoom on Jan. 19 for the kickoff of Advanced Practice Grand Rounds, the monthly educational series organized by the Office of Advanced Practice.

The session featured the keynote presentation, “Swimming with Alligators: Finding Well-Being in Turbulent Waters,” from Jim Kendall, LCSW, CEAP, manager of VUMC Work-Life Connections-EAP (the Employee Assistance Program).

The stress of coping with the pandemic was the theme for the kickoff of the recent Advanced Practice Grand Rounds.
The stress of coping with the pandemic was the theme for the kickoff of the recent Advanced Practice Grand Rounds.

Kendall knows all about the challenges of the workplace. For more than 20 years, he and his colleagues have offered confidential counseling to Vanderbilt faculty and staff as part of Work-Life Connections-EAP. He talked about how COVID-19 has been his biggest challenge yet and offered tools for people to build resilience in one of the hardest times they will ever face. He said one of his biggest fears during the pandemic is burnout.

Burnout is different from depression, he said. It’s the accumulated stress of caring that results in the caregiver feeling depleted.

“It’s when you feel that mental distance from your job,” he said, “when we don’t feel that we are efficient and we’ve lost our efficacy.”

The last year provided plenty of fodder for burnout — a global pandemic, of course, but also a major tornado in March, high-profile incidents of racial injustice and inequity and the Christmas Day bombing on Nashville’s Second Avenue.

The arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccine in December provides a glimmer of hope, he said. But he acknowledged that a long winter remains ahead.

So, how to cope? The first step is to acknowledge the situation, to talk it out and share personal experiences with others. Take in simple pleasures. Express gratitude.

Kendall dedicated his presentation to Kate Payne, JD, RN, NC-BC, a bioethicist, attorney and beloved nurse leader at VUMC and Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, who died Jan. 6 after a brief and unexpected illness. Kendall had worked closely with Payne, including on the very presentation he was giving.

“Life is fleeting,” he said. “Appreciate little things and thank each other…

This very fact that we are together through virtual means is pretty incredible.”

Being grounded in reality is important. If you’re not feeling well, it’s important to acknowledge that. “It’s OK to not be OK,” he said.

For employees dealing with personal and workplace issues, Work/Life Connections-EAP is always available. Call 615-936-1327 for a confidential appointment. Sessions are available virtually or socially distanced in person.

One thing Kendall learned this year was the value of providing counseling on the TeleHealth platform. “I know we’ll continue this because we want to be as accessible as possible,” he said.

Finding out what works to build resilience and well-being is different in each person, he said. It could be reading, music or more sleep. Kendall encouraged setting attainable goals — even just setting aside 10 minutes somewhere in the day to do something you really like.

“We need to set boundaries between work and home … especially if you’re working remotely from home,” he said.

Limiting media and social media, especially in the divisive political environment of today, is also helpful. And remember, this time of hardship will pass.

“There are still some choppy waters ahead but we’re going to make it through this,” Kendall said. “We know how to navigate this. It’s about self-care and it’s about paying attention to our own well-being needs, our colleagues and supporting them. There is hope.”

April Kapu, DNP, RN, ACNP-BC, associate nursing officer for VUMC Advanced Practice and director of the Office of Advanced Practice, thanked Kendall for his contribution to the 2021 Grand Rounds series.

“It was a very welcome and warm presentation,” she said. “It was just what we all needed in the midst of some very turbulent times. Jim’s presence and delivery of his presentation were very comforting, and he gave us some excellent advice for self-care and well-being moving forward.”

During the kickoff session, the 2021 Advanced Practice Ambassador Award was presented to Liza Weavind, MBBCh, MMHC, medical co-director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. The award honors non-advanced practice nurses for their contributions to the profession.

Kapu said this year’s lineup of presentations are thanks to the Advanced Practice Professional Development Committee — Chair Amanda Dickert, DNP, APRN, CRNA; Director of Advanced Practice Professional Development Buffy Krauser-Lupear, DNP, APRN, CRNA; and the staff within the Office of Advanced Practice.

For more information about the Office of Advanced Practice, go here.

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