(801) 541-6148 anne@annependomd.com

Working in healthcare can sometimes expose us to moments that can only be described as our “worst days.” We are confronted with the heart-wrenching reality of unexpected losses – whether it’s the death of a patient, a cherished member of our team, or a team member’s family. 

How we respond as a health system presents a valuable opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to caring for those we work with – the individual, the team and the leaders who are providing support. The words and actions show: 

  • “You matter. We’ve got you.” 
  • “We will provide the care and resources to support our teams through this challenging time and help carry the burden.”
  • “We are all human and we are with you when hard things happen.”

To support caregivers and their teams at Intermountain Health, the Crisis Response Huddle is a framework to manage such events with a consistent process that can be implemented enterprise-wide, pairing local response with support from the system in the event of a loss – of caregivers, caregivers’ family members, and patients.

Led by Emily Stirling, Intermountain Health’s Social Wellbeing Director, a comprehensive Crisis Response Huddle plan was created to address various levels of crisis situations. Leaders or caregivers in crisis situations can connect with the Crisis Response Team through a single phone number for a consistent connection point. 

The Crisis Response Teams brings together local leaders who share information about the situation; other team members are included based on severity, profile, and needs of the crisis. The primary goals of the initial response are to:

  • Bring together the key stakeholders
  • Gain a common understanding of the situation; provide support to the leader
  • Share system resources and the crisis response process
  • Coordinate next steps to best respond to the crisis

This supportive framework is designed to address both family needs and affected caregiver needs for up to four weeks. Facilitated debrief to normalize grief reactions, and self-care and recovery and may connect those involved to other resources as needed. The Crisis Response Team helps leaders and their teams cope with the initial days and weeks of the crisis, setting the foundation for resilience and recovery.

The Crisis Response Huddles provide incredible support for leaders, caregivers, and team members with a “Caring & Learning” mindset – one that prioritizes the well-being of the people we lead above all else. Having a framework in place to guide the appropriate responses makes it possible for leaders to ensure the well-being of team members (and themselves) as everyone navigates a traumatic experience. 

When caregivers are asked for their reflections, here a few comments we have heard:

  • “The fact that there was a response team that existed. They were very clear on the next steps and the best way to support the team while providing great emotional support.”
  • “Having a point person that I could call, email or text with questions. Having one person that could connect me with who I needed was so helpful. I was panicked about the number of people I needed to notify and talk to, having someone help with what was important.”

I would love to hear your thoughts on Intermountain Health’s Crisis Response plan and how you/your organization are supporting your teams. Please share them in the comments below.