HOMETOWN HERO: Psychiatrist cares for the caretakers at Abington Hospital

ABINGTON, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A doctor in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania has been hard at work lifting up her co-workers and fueling positivity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Dr. Diane Custer walks through the hallways at Abington Hospital Jefferson Health, she's looking for anyone who makes eye contact. In these busy units, she realizes she may only have 30 seconds to help someone.

"It's so important to get down to the frontline to see what is and isn't working, what would make your workday less stressful," said Custer, who's the chair of psychiatry for the hospital.

She founded the Proactive Support Team, which goes around the hospital giving "psychological first aid" to the staff, caring for the caretakers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You could see the stress and fatigue that nurses and staff were carrying with them, and then would get used to seeing us," said John Olsen, the chaplain for the hospital who helps with the rounds.

Early on in the pandemic, Custer realized workers were having anxiety about their shifts before they even walked in the door, so she wanted to find ways to help them stay positive.

"The level of anxiety became such that it was almost impossible for people to concentrate on their job," said Custer, who covered the hospital with uplifting messages about how brave workers are and how they get rid of stress.

"When you stop and think about three good things in your life on a consistent, daily basis, it's proven to decrease depression, anxiety, and insomnia," she said.

It's a picture on the wall, a note on the floor, and 30 seconds of an attentive ear, but Custer knows every positive thought can make a difference in caring for the caretakers.
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