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Hospital Preparedness Program Funding Helps a​ Burned-Out Health Care Workforce During the COVID-19 Pandemic

New York
December 2021


Through its Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) funding, New York was able to support its health care workforce, empowering virtual training session attendees to prioritize their mental health and create a supported and thus stronger health care workforce.

“The funding for this training supported attendees at a crucial time as they were given an opportunity to decrease turnover and increase career resilience as they focused on work-life balance.”

-Barbara Rubel, Managing Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma During the COVID-19 Health Crisis Course Instructor

Both the training session and training manual have equipped health care workers with tools and the knowledge needed to create a better workspace, empower an exhausted workforce, and support their colleagues during an exhaustive emergency response. By emphasizing the role of wellness in sustaining a long-lasting career, this course and its supplemental resources equipped attendees with ways to take a more informed, collaborative, and comprehensive approach to self-care during a disaster response.


The COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant stress on health care workers across the U.S., resulting in feelings of fatigue, burnout, and overwhelm as they continue in their seemingly endless efforts to care for COVID-19 patients. Health care workers in New York State have been feeling this fatigue the last two years and in 2021, they reached a point at which acknowledging and addressing the mental health impact of the pandemic was critical.

The New York State Department of Health’s (NYSDOH’s) Office of Health Emergency Preparedness used ASPR Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) funding to hold a virtual fatigue training session, Managing Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma During the COVID-19 Health Crisis, for the state’s Health Emergency Preparedness Coalition (HEPC) members. Invitees included individuals from health care facilities, public health partners, and local and state emergency response partners, in addition to health care association representatives.

Response Activities:

The virtual training session focused on education and symptom management for health care worker fatigue and burnout. To properly educate and equip attendees with proper information, NYSDOH brought in a subject matter expert in burnout, vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue to train HEPC members. Course attendees learned how to identify pandemic burnout symptoms and contributors to burnout, such as compassion fatigue, empathic distress, secondary traumatic stress, and vicarious trauma. The course content was research-based and highlighted common challenges for those caring for COVID-19 patients, such as disenfranchised grief and ambiguous loss. In addition to the virtual training course, attendees received a training manual that included self-assessments to help the health care workforce identify fatigue in themselves and a wellness action plan for attendees to mentally prepare for and respond accordingly to the next mass trauma event. The training session was recorded and made available to all health care workers in the state of New York. In total, 62 HEPC members attended the virtual fatigue training session.