Health Center News

Heroes at the Center – Managing the Emotional Well-being of Staff Impacted by Natural Disasters

For many, the onslaught of natural disasters during 2017 are still top of mind. Hurricanes pounded islands, floods washed away roads, and wildfires burned down homes. Mother Nature created emergency after emergency, and as many of us watched from afar, looking for opportunities to help, there were Community Health Centers on the ground working to care for their communities – health centers like MedCentro and Salud Integral en la Montaña in Puerto Rico, Santa Rosa Community Health in California, and Frederiksted Health Care (FHC) Inc. in the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose staff showed up to work even as they suffered losses. What health centers and their staff have managed to do over the last year in light of the disasters has been heroism at its best. But in the midst of a disaster and providing care, what is often forgotten is that these heroes are also dealing with their own loss and trauma from these events.

These health centers and many others served their communities as they faced adversity directly and were led by strong leaders who steered their operations with confidence, conviction, and oftentimes, with strong arms around their own staff. Through a series of interviews, NACHC has attempted to capture insights from leaders in impacted areas and from others across the country who chipped in with support.

Allan Cintron Salichs, Executive Director of MedCentro, highlighted the need for preparing emotionally to manage stress. He also stressed the importance of creating a sense of normalcy in the workplace for staff experiencing chaos everywhere. Read more here

Santa Rosa Community Health Center CEO Naomi Fuchs, shares how despite losing the largest health center site, the health center managed to become a source of information for staff suffering losses in the California wildfires. She also emphasizes the importance of supporting staff during these events. Read more here. 

FHC CEO Massarae Sprauve-Webster says that the health center considers itself a first responder and moved quickly to take care of their staff so they could take care of their patients. She noted that showing support for staff boosts morale and helps them do their best in these situations. Read more here.

Chief Executive of Salud Integral en la Montaña (SIM), Inc., Gloria del C. Amador Fernández, DrPh(c), MHSA, discusses how SIM communicated between eight health center sites when all regular communication methods were unavailable in Puerto Rico. She also shares what innovative changes the health center is making to address the challenges they faced after Hurricane Maria. Read more here.