Podcast gives voice to traumatized healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic


August 12, 2022

2 minute read


Disclosures: Meier does not report any relevant financial information.

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Diane E. Meier, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, remembers the fanfare around “health heroes” during the early outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every night at 7 a.m. people were banging pots and pans on their windows,” said Meier, who is vice president of public policy and professor of palliative medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, as well as Mr. ‘a HemOnc Today Member of the editorial board, told Healio. “There was applause and music and then it all faded away.”

Diane E. Meier

The public had grown weary, she said, and their attention spans for the daily tragedies occurring in hospitals across the country had grown short.

“It’s understandable, because the public was also traumatized,” she said.

Less understandable is the overt aggressiveness of some patients toward frontline healthcare workers, often driven by political polarization around COVID-19, Meier said.

“Not only are they taken for granted generally, but they have faced outright hostility from a number of patients in certain parts of the country,” she said. “People were spat on, they were beaten and they were threatened. So not only were they putting their own lives and those of their families at risk, but they were also being abused by the very people they were trying to help.

To combat the discouragement, stress and burnout of these healthcare workers, Meier and Andrew E. EschMD, MBA, senior education adviser at the Center to Advance Palliative Care, started a podcast called “Breaking Point: Voices from the Front Lines of the Pandemic.”

The podcast features healthcare workers from across the country, who often share harrowing stories of their experiences on the front lines of COVID-19. Meier said that for these healthcare professionals, the mission to help others is an integral part of the self-concept, and patients who react antagonistically to this assistance can threaten clinicians’ sense of purpose.

“We are trained to help sick people,” she said. “We are proud of it and we are committed to it. It is a very powerful motivator, because it is linked to moral values. When people are willing to hurt you and see you as the enemy, it threatens that self-concept.

Meier said guests on her podcast often discuss how this disruption of the provider/patient relationship can cause clinicians to be emotionally “screened” as a self-protective measure.

“Many of the people who speak on our podcast have alluded to how they dealt with this kind of progressive numbness,” she said.

Meier said several palliative care program leaders spoke on the podcast about the imperative for providers to care for each other, as well as patients.

“They want to expand the work of palliative care teams beyond patient and family care, and also focus on caring for our large family of colleagues across the facility,” she said. declared. “We’ve always done that, but it’s become much more explicit and essential now.”

The “Breaking Point” podcast can be accessed at www.capc.org/podcasts/breaking-point/?fbclid=IwAR2nnF39nIGwBKikKY4Hr17FJp4old_gES9dbuRNxFcd2nzSssWyOd5rdC8.

For more information:

Diane E. Meier, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, can be reached at [email protected]


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