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New computerized course: Pandemic stress vaccine for health-care workers worldwide

October 26, 2009 – Experts know that a pandemic can increase stress-related absenteeism among health-care workers. To help prevent this, a team of Mount Sinai Hospital psychiatrists and nurses have developed The Pandemic Influenza Stress Vaccine, a computerized course for health-care workers worldwide to build their resilience during a pandemic.

Based on the SARS outbreak in 2003, Mount Sinai experts understand that the spike in health-care workers’ stress-related absenteeism results from fear of contagion, concern for family health, job stress, interpersonal, isolation, and perceived stigma. That’s why Mount Sinai researchers Dr. Robert Maunder and Dr. William Lancee led a pilot study of computerized training for 150 Mount Sinai health-care workers in 2009. The results suggest that the training improves health-care workers’ belief that they can handle the changes a pandemic brings, confidence in support and training, and interpersonal problems. This also suggests that the training may be able reduce stress-related absenteeism.

From these findings, the researchers are launching The Pandemic Influenza Stress Vaccine course, which will be an education tool and also the basis of pandemic resilience research.

“We want to prevent stress-related absenteeism by teaching health-care workers how to cope and using education to build their confidence,” explains Dr. Maunder. “Our pilot study suggests that the course works when it is provided to health-care workers prior to a pandemic in order to reduce the impact of stress after exposure. Now that the H1N1 pandemic has started, there is a strong incentive to provide the course to English-speaking health-care workers worldwide.” At the same time, Dr. Maunder emphasizes the need to test the training under real-world conditions.

The course is available over the Internet making it widely accessible at no cost for the health-care workers. The goal is to reach 3,000 health-care workers worldwide.

“This course addresses many of health-care workers’ common fears and concerns,” explains Gillian Wilde, Mount Sinai Nurse Clinician in the Emergency Department, who also took the course as part of the pilot study. “Because of the course, I know that experiencing stress during a pandemic is a normal response. However, it doesn’t mean that I have to feel helpless or afraid. I now have more tools that I can use to maintain my physical and emotional health during a pandemic.”

The course is now live. It is part of a randomized control trial. Hospital-based health-care workers can register at The pilot study was funded by Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

Media contact

Melissa McDermott
Mount Sinai Hospital
416-586-4800 ext. 3161