Who is Your Battle Buddy?

Cathy Stern MSOL, RN
Manager, Clinical and Operational Improvement

Hmmm…what in the world is a Battle Buddy? In the United States Army, a Battle Buddy is a soldier assigned to partner with another soldier. They are expected to assist his or her partner in and out of combat. While the role of the Battle Buddy is to serve as company for their partner, the greater intent is to reduce the risk of suicide. The soldier and their Battle Buddy look out for each other; paying attention to negative thoughts and feelings, providing support when the going is tough, and seeking help if necessary.

So I ask you, while we are in the battle with the COVID-19 pandemic and the up and down ride we are on with case stabilization and surges…who is your Battle Buddy?

Every member of the healthcare team is facing challenges, regardless if there is or was a surge of COVID-19 patients at your hospital. Let’s think critically about these challenges and how a Battle Buddy might be relevant. Think about the impact of the fear of the unknown: will this ever end, when will this end, concern for family and friends who may live in communities where there has been a significant increase in COVID-19. Maybe staff have financial concerns: loss of income in their own household or of family members. Or concerns about their children: who is caring for the kids, how can they protect their kids, what if their kids develop COVID-19? These are stressors that may not be evident on the surface, but exist and can have a significant impact on the healthcare team member.

In communities experiencing an increase in the number of cases, and a subsequent increase in the number of patients who have succumbed to illness, I can tell you that the loss of a patient is somewhat personal. Healthcare organizations should evaluate the support that is made available for staff. Is grief counseling available? Are we debriefing to ask how our teams are doing on the frontline? Be sure to think beyond the doctors and nurses. The death of a patient touches all who have touched that patient: respiratory, lab, radiology, dietary, environmental services – they all can feel the loss.

At least in my lifetime, we have never experienced the magnitude of patient loss we are collectively experiencing in this country. The thought of patients not able to be surrounded by loved ones as they pass from this life, and the responsibility felt by the healthcare team to keep family informed and connected, can be overwhelming. We need to look out for our teammates as we take care of our patients.

So today I ask you…who is your Battle Buddy?