CARING FOR THE CAREGIVERS
WHO ARE THE CAREGIVERS AT GMCH?
George Mark Children’s House is an extraordinary community of caregivers, spanning the families, core caregivers and the entire extended GMCH team.
Our core caregivers are the extremely skilled nurses and hands-on clinical staff who provide bedside physical care. They address the physical, emotional, and social needs of every child and their families. This is deep, heartfelt, exceptional care.
GMCH is comprised of a large team of dedicated staff and volunteers who are an integral part of the magic of the House. It truly takes a village to make GMCH a place where our patients and families thrive. The extended support team includes our clinical staff, psychosocial team, operations team, dietary and housekeeping team, maintenance workers, our volunteers, and our Board of Directors. We are focused on providing wellness for all team members. It really is a dream team.
WHAT IS ‘CARING FOR CAREGIVERS’ AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
The caregivers in a place like George Mark Children’s House — the nurses, the psychosocial team, and the support team — are one hundred percent focused on providing the best care possible for children and their families. The caregivers and the greater GMCH team need care too. Often, they are the last ones to receive care because they are so focused on the patients and the families.
Caring for our caregivers and our greater team means making sure that we pause and take time to ensure that our staff are getting the care that they need. Making sure there is time to reflect, decompress and recharge so that they can continue to do the challenging work that they do. We are all well aware that many caregivers are burning out and leaving the industry because they are so depleted.
The need to care for our caregivers was very apparent when I stepped into this role. It is broad spread, as an international condition, that caregivers need more care. We must coalesce our efforts and our focus on caring for them. It has been one of my top priorities since I came in as CEO.
WHAT DO CAREGIVERS NEED MOST?
Caregivers need what every person needs to be healthy and thrive. They need time away from work to reflect and re-charge. They need the grace and space to focus on themselves, to re-center and to take time to be with their families. They need time to do things that are most meaningful to them.
They also need time in their workplaces to enjoy and connect with their colleagues, to have meals together and share moments of levity.
HOW DOES GMCH SUPPORT CAREGIVERS THROUGH TIMES OF GRIEF?
We recently initiated “Wellness Wednesdays” at the House, where we organize various wellness activities like yoga, massage therapy and wellness walks. These events really care for those kinds of important physical needs, but also create time to laugh and connect.
Our Chaplain recently led a beautiful session to share our understanding of the physicality of grace. We split into groups and took a staff survey on stress and grace, noting how they physically manifest. We learned that many of our definitions of “grace” are quite similar. This includes activities such as being in nature; spending time with loved ones; eating really good food; laughter; doing yoga; taking walks; and hiking. We used these learnings to inform our staff wellness activities to center around those things that help alleviate stress and matter most to our staff.
In December, we had one of our talented volunteers, a comedian, come to the House to lead a humor-based game show with the staff. There was so much laughter, and you could just feel the lightness in the room.
It is so important for us to listen to what our caregivers need and then do our best to support them in an ongoing way however we can.
HOW DOES GMCH SUPPORT THE CAREGIVING STAFF?
In addition to the anonymous external mental health counseling, which includes grief counseling, as part of our staff benefits, we hold space for grief as a community here at George Mark.
Whenever a child dies, the staff gather for a special, personalized ceremony by our memorial fountain. This ritual is an important part of our process of grieving. We always have a quiet, thoughtful time at the House to reflect as part of our community.
As a tradition on the second Sunday of December, each year, GMCH observes International Children’s Remembrance Day, with a candle lighting ceremony. It is a powerful way of grieving and healing, and another way to care for each other. The staff read the more than 300 names of the children who are part of the George Mark community and have since died. It is so powerful to say their names and to remember these children. We were all hugging each other during the most recent ceremony, as we honored the children and their families. This is our holistic approach to care.
IF YOU COULD SAY ONE THING TO THE CAREGIVERS AT GMCH, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Thank you for your dedication, your compassion, and your professionalism that you bring every day to the patients, to the families and to our entire staff.
It is so admirable what you do — coming in every day, ready to face whatever comes. Thank you for that. Thank you for being committed to our vision and our mission and holding that as our North Star.
The GMCH staff is so heart forward and so focused on our meaningful work. To someone like me, who was not previously in the medical space, but who has the deeply personal experience of having a child die at George Mark – watching our staff and what they do, absolutely inspires me and compels me to do more for them, every day.