The COVID-19 pandemic strained health care systems like no other public health crisis in recent memory. Emergency departments and intensive care units were pushed to their limits — and beyond — during the first wave of infections in the spring of 2020 and in the surges in case numbers that followed. The psychological toll is still being felt.
The 2022 Keynote Series at the ATS International Conference will begin Sunday, May 15, with a discussion on how to carry on while living through impossible circumstances such as a pandemic. Restoration in the Aftermath, at 8:15-9 a.m. PT in Room 7-8 (South Building, Exhibition Level) of the Moscone Center, will use a storytelling framework to illustrate how the narratives of health care professionals, patients, and their families can provide a foundation for healing and moving forward collectively.
“There is incredible potential for healing when we come together in a community and share our experiences with each other and create a container that is safe and nourishing and allows us to process,” said Rana L. Awdish, MD, medical director of care experience for Henry Ford Health, and associate professor of medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Dr. Awdish will present on the ways in which her colleagues in Detroit have used shared experience as a way to facilitate healing.
“Our hospital got really crushed, especially during the first wave of the pandemic. It was incredibly important that we come together as clinicians, respiratory therapists, and nurses in small, facilitated groups to reflect and recognize the toll the pandemic took on our colleagues,” she said.
Seeking this kind of restoration is atypical for many health care professionals who tend to push through their own mental health challenges to attend to their patients.
“Our altruism as a profession really is a risk factor to our own well-being,” Dr. Awdish said. “We compromised a lot of our own well-being over the past two years to care for everyone around us. This session is a moment when we can focus on our own experiences, which is critical if we’re going to move forward.”
The pandemic has been a collective experience, underscoring the need for a unifying approach to future wellness, said Megan M. Hosey, PhD, a clinical psychologist specializing in rehabilitation psychology and an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
“This keynote is for everyone,” she said. “It was our intention to invite everyone to a space where we could start talking and thinking about our collective experience with the pandemic in a professional way, but also reflecting on our personal experiences.”
Dr. Hosey will highlight patient and family experiences during the pandemic and how they parallel the experiences of health care workers.
“What I’m hoping people can take away is that even when things feel insurmountable and we can’t see a way through, we can think about what’s important to us and start to take small steps forward so that we can live in the face of things that seem impossible,” Dr. Hosey said.
A forthcoming article in the online journal ATS Scholar,“A Way Forward in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Making the Case for Narrative Competence,” will further explore the potential of narrative medicine.
Don’t Miss On-Demand Highlights
Worried you won’t be able to see every session of interest at the ATS 2023 International Conference? Or not able to join us in Washington, DC? Access some of the conference’s best content through the ATS 2023 On-Demand Highlights platform, available in June. It will include more than 100 scientific and clinical symposia, including Keynote sessions, Clinical Year in Review, and Adult and Pediatric Core Curriculum.