Skip to content

Employee Morale Workgroup’s COVID-19 efforts helped Hershey staff through crisis

Connection, appreciation and respite. The Morale and Psychological and Mental Health Workgroup provided all these critical supports for Hershey Medical Center’s front line staff during the COVID-19 surge.

The team, initiated by Hershey Medical Center President Deb Berini, was led by David Simmons, director of Pastoral Care Services, and Greg Larsh, organizational culture consultant. Members also included Chaplain Darlene Miller Cooley, Dr. Sanjay Yadav of Penn State Health Medical Group – Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, and Kelly Holder, director of the Penn State Health/College of Medicine Office for Professional Mental Health.

“Once word got out that we were taking on this project, people began reaching out with ideas about how to help,” Simmons said. “Within a few weeks, we went from two or three initiatives to nearly a dozen.”

From quiet retreats to chaplain outreach and counseling opportunities, the workgroup provided employees with support and encouragement throughout the surge.

Team members, Hershey Medical Center leaders, and other volunteers made face-to-face HERO cart deliveries to frontline employees six times a week for nine weeks. They manned a total of 432 carts stocked with goodies. Though the treats were well received, the words of thanks and encouragement were equally as important to lifting spirits.

“This was a unique opportunity to connect—cheering each other on, offering words of encouragement and contributing to the cause,” said Stephanie Reed, nurse manager, pediatric oncology.

In addition, the chaplain team reached out to every hospital unit once a week to offer assistance. This outreach, along with the creation of a support hotline, helped to ensure that nearly 700 employees had someone to talk with during this stressful period.

The team also expanded psychological, emotional and spiritual support services through:

  • A volunteer psychological counseling program
  • A remote walk-in-crisis intervention platform
  • Remote Office of Professional Mental Health sessions
  • A “Professional Resiliency and Crisis Survival Skills” remote workshop
  • A “When home becomes the workplace” remote weekly workshop
  • A pro-wellness toolkit

During the surge, a WeCare support group led by Dr. Michael Hayes, Social Worker Carol Moore and Center Stage Director Claire De Boer coordinated efforts with the morale workgroup.

“When we care for employees’ physical and mental health and listen to their needs, they are better prepared to care for their patients,” Berini said. “This was a message that we received from the physician and staff engagement survey.”

If you're having trouble accessing this content, or would like it in another format, please email the Penn State College of Medicine web department.