Georgian partners with Waypoint on mental health projects for health-care workers
September 28, 2020

Georgian College is using $150,000 in applied research grants in partnership with Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care for two projects that aim to benefit health-care workers.

The funding comes from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada special College and Community Innovation Program – Applied Research Rapid Response to COVID-19 fund. All projects are intended to address topics of immediate relevance to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Georgian and Waypoint identified two project ideas – one focused on health-care workers in the return-to-work period, and the other on an online mindfulness training program for health-care professionals. Both projects are already in progress with applications approved by both Waypoint and Georgian Research Ethics Boards. Faculty and staff from both the college and the hospital will be involved in the execution of the projects, as well as alumni and co-op students from Georgian’s Research Analyst program.

“We’re looking forward to partnering with Waypoint on ways to support health-care workers who have been absolute heroes during COVID-19,” says Dr. Mira Ray, Director, Research and Innovation at Georgian. “And Waypoint is already a valuable partner for us as many students from our health, wellness and sciences, computer studies and business programs complete their clinical training, field work, or co-op work terms at the hospital.”

The first project, titled Effects of Covid-19 on Health-care Providers: Opportunities for Education and Support or “ECHOES”, addresses how COVID-19 has unsettled daily life for everyone, especially health-care providers who already experience high stress, anxiety, and depression in their workplaces.

Research will involve individual interviews, focus groups, and surveys to understand the experiences and needs of mental health-care providers from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions (e.g., social isolation, work- and home-life restructuring) as they return to work with fewer restrictions. Secondly, the project will develop education and support tools for mental health-care providers to help them build awareness and resiliency, and improve teamwork so these essential workers may continue to deliver quality mental health care during pandemic recovery.

The second project is titled Mindfulness to Combat Health-care Worker Burnout during COVID-19: Evaluating a 4-week Tailored Program.

Mindfulness programs are known to decrease physician burnout and while typically face-to-face delivery has been the favoured instructional method, with COVID-19 restrictions, the second research project will evaluate the efficacy of online mindfulness for health-care workers, as well as long-term maintenance effects.

Side by side head shots of two females.

Waypoint will implement a four-week online mindfulness training program adapted from the Mindfulness Without Borders Mindfulness Ambassador Program, an evidence-based curriculum rooted in social and emotional development. It will be delivered by certified Waypoint facilitators, and open to all health-care workers across the North Simcoe Muskoka area.

“We are excited to partner with Georgian on these important projects to support health-care workers and anticipate many more collaborations in the future,” says Dr. Nathan Kolla, Vice-President, Research and Academics, Waypoint. “Waypoint is committed to being a leader and trusted partner to shape health-care that meets unique community needs, which includes health-care workers themselves. We believe the online mindfulness component and targeted education and support tools of these projects will do just that.”

The funding will support project costs such as faculty course release, research assistants and/or research associates, supplies, knowledge transfer and dissemination activities over the course of one year.

“Our two researchers, Drs. Jacqueline Limoges and Sarah Hunter, are leading the charge on these extremely important research projects to support health-care workers at Waypoint and across the Simcoe Muskoka Health District,” says Dr. Ray.