The VOICE of UPMC Shadyside Winter 2021–2022

Even Heroes Need Help

The Shadyside Hospital Foundation offers “virtual hugs” to hardworking staffers

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in 2020, testing the courage and resilience of UPMC Shadyside’s entire staff, the Shadyside Hospital Foundation found ways to offer them a “virtual hug,” enhancing their well-being and making their lives a little easier.

“Even heroes need help,” says Sandra L. Rader, DNP, MSA, RN, NEA-BC, president of UPMC Shadyside. “There are a lot of longterm effects of COVID, both physical and emotional. We are so appreciative of the Foundation’s support. It gives us opportunities to become better caregivers.”

Employee Assistance Fund

Very quickly in 2020, the Foundation’s directors enthusiastically approved the creation of an Employee Assistance Fund of up to $500,000 to help any UPMC Shadyside staff member facing financial hardship caused by the pandemic. The Foundation invited all actively employed staff members to apply for gifts to help them and their families with food, overdue bills, rent and car payments, utility bills, childcare, and more.

“We wanted to show our support, particularly for the unheralded workers behind the scenes who have courageously continued to care for patients,” said Foundation Chair Tod Hunt in 2021.

“We wanted to show our support, particularly for the unheralded workers behind the scenes who have courageously continued to care for patients.”
- Tod Hunt, Chair, Shadyside Hospital Foundation

Thankful Thursdays

What says “thank you” better than a delicious meal? To show appreciation for everything the staff was doing, the Foundation funded “Thankful Thursdays,” inviting every employee to enjoy a free meal during their shift. The idea came from Amanda H. Lenhard, MD, chief of the Division of Medicine. Sam Kane, director of UPMC Food and Nutrition, and his catering team prepared the food.

About 2,500 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners were served to staff from nearly every department, clinical and essential services, and in some cases, multiple times, according to Mr. Kane.

“This has been a tremendously rewarding project for our team members,” he says. “It showed our appreciation and admiration — and also helped provide much-needed nourishment to groups that may not have been able to step away and eat.”

Psychological first aid

Lauren Lloyd, vice president of Human Resources, explains that her department is focused on employees’ well-being. “With the pandemic, we zeroed in on the long-term impact to our staff as they experienced very difficult situations. We created numerous ways to try to help, from on-site counseling to virtual town hall information sessions to COVID information toolkits, stress management tools on their mobile devices, and more.”

The Foundation enhanced this work in special ways. Shelley Watters, senior director of Cultural Excellence, says that COVID “actually offered an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge the emotionally draining nature of high-stress hospital work. Although it’s a lofty goal, we want to try to change the outdated way of dismissing stress as just ‘part of the job’ to acknowledging it and encouraging staff to take time to decompress for their own mental health. We began looking into how we could offer compassionate support in multiple ways.”

One approach supported by the Foundation is “Code Lavender,” a crisis intervention team that makes weekly rounds and also can be deployed to support any person within the organization when a stressful or a series of stressful events occurs in the hospital. 

“We consider it psychological first aid, kind of that band-aid for the soul,” says Ms. Watters. “During our Code Lavender rounds, we’re able to offer a variety of stress-relief modalities. These include things like massage, pet therapy, aromatherapy, meditation, deep breathing, and mindful eating (we call it chocolate!).

“During the first three months, we reached out to over 600 staff members, including nurses, transporters, respiratory therapists, physicians, advanced care providers, pharmacists, nursing assistants, environmental service workers, and unit secretaries. 

“Jamilyn Kennell, MSN, RN, OCN, advanced clinical education specialist, is currently conducting a nursing research study that was approved by the Institutional Review Board to explore moral distress levels in Shadyside nurses over time,” Ms. Watters adds. “Jamilyn and the research team can apply metrics to this work by using the Measure of Moral Distress in Healthcare Workers Tool, as it validates what we are observing.”