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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Implementation of a Dedicated Social Worker/Coach for Emergency Medicine (EM) Residents

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Learning Objectives: The pandemic exposed the mismatch between trainee mental health needs and their access to support services; therefore, the objective of our innovation was to support an opportunity for residents to work with a social worker/coach who could provide coaching on an emergent, urgent, or regular basis.

Introduction/Background: EM training requires sleep-wake disruptions, includes potentially traumatizing encounters, all during the COVID-19 pandemic while many residents relocate away from their customary psychosocial supports for training. The shift-based training model limits access to psychosocial care and services, so trainees need just-in-time resources which can support them before mental health concerns develop.

Educational Objectives: The objective of our innovation was to support an opportunity for our residents to work with a professional social worker who could provide coaching on an emergent, urgent, or regular basis.

Curricular Design: The leadership team identified a clinical social worker and trained coach to provide small group and individual coaching sessions to residents (4-year urban safety-net program with 68 residents) budgeted at an initial cost of $15,000. It was agreed that what was shared in the discussion would not be shared without consent and legal limits to confidentiality were followed.

Impact: From October 1, 2020 when implemented to October 1, 2021 there were 49 group and 73 individual sessions. After implementation in 2021, we compared this rotational mean score as ranked by all residents to all other wellness initiatives. Overall response rate was 80.88%. The overall mean score of the initiative was 2.25 (1-lowest and 4-highest) versus 3.73, the mean of all other wellness initiatives. Summary comments from the residents revealed the innovation was useful but shared concern regarding ability to attend sessions and capacity of social worker to relate with them.  If other programs are considering implementation of a similar program recruiting someone with ED/graduate medical education experience or making sure they are oriented is key. Application of a social worker coaching program in an EM residency appears to be a feasible novel wellness intervention with potential to improve well-being, but needs framing to benefit trainees.

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