On Feb. 7, the Brigham community came together to offer support to one another in the aftermath of a shooting that took place outside of the hospital that morning and injured a member of the Valet team. His condition has improved, and he was listed in good condition as of Feb. 13.
Within hours of the incident, hospital leaders organized a forum in Bornstein Amphitheater and via webcast, during which they encouraged attendees to both care for one another and practice self-care. Faculty, staff and trainees were also invited to access support and resources at the Kessler Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families, where counselors, chaplains and social workers were available 24/7 for several days.
“There’s no extra credit for feeling brave through this,” said Ron M. Walls, MD, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “It’s normal to feel frightened and vulnerable, and it’s natural to wonder what might happen next. But please know that we are a community. We need to bring our arms out around one another — our whole community — including our valets, our Police and Security team, our patients and their families, and our co-workers.”
Sejal Shah, MD, director of the Division of Medical Psychiatry, amplified the message of self-care and offered additional insight into common reactions after a traumatic event. She explained it’s normal to experience a range of emotions, some of which may be new or unexpected.
“We all react in different ways — accept that in yourself. Make sure you are looking out for yourself,” Shah said. “The most important thing you can do is try to return to a routine that seems normal and recognizable to you.”
Shah noted that if someone is not able to return to a normal routine, and is scared to leave his or her house or return to work, those are signs that additional support, such as talking to a counselor or therapist, would be beneficial.
She added that, for some, it can also be helpful to take a break from social media and other news sources after an incident like the Feb. 7 shooting, explaining that rewatching and rereading coverage of the event often increases distress without offering any benefit.
“I’ll end by saying this: We are a community. We are a family,” Shah said. “I think of this place as my second family. Reach out to each other. Give each other a hug. Check in with each other.”
In addition to the Feb. 7 forum, the Emergency Preparedness team hosted two more on Feb. 13 for the Brigham community to share feedback about how the hospital responded to and communicated about the incident. Staff were also invited to share their feedback via an online form.
In a message to staff on Feb. 7, Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD, and Walls expressed their appreciation for the “utmost care, professionalism and compassion” demonstrated by all, despite the trying circumstances.
Among the many groups that rapidly responded were the Employee Assistance Program, Psychiatry, Spiritual Care Services and the Center for Community Health and Health Equity’s Violence Intervention and Prevention programs, whose clinicians and advocates provided in-person counseling in the Kessler Library.
“Like many of you, we experienced a range of emotions in response to today’s terrible events: disbelief, sadness, worry and uncertainty,” Nabel and Walls wrote. “Upon witnessing how quickly and skillfully our Brigham family came together during and after this emergency, another feeling soon surfaced: immense pride in the extraordinarily expert and supportive way you comforted and cared for our patients, their loved ones and each other.”
Resources for Support
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Free, voluntary and confidential support, available 24/7
Spiritual Care Services
Chaplains are available to counsel individuals and teams.
617-732-7480 or pager #11724
For emergencies, call 911 or go to the Emergency Department. For non-emergency acute distress, contact EAP at 866-724-4327 or Psychiatry Triage at 617-732-6753. Staff should identify themselves as an employee and indicate they would like to speak with someone in relation to the Feb. 7 events.
Learn more at BWHPikeNotes.org.