WASHINGTON, DC – Over the last two years, since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, many doctors, nurses, and frontline health workers have been working extra-long shifts and seeing an elevated volume of patients.  The increased workload, prolonged stress, and spike in COVID-related deaths has caused many frontline health workers to experience fatigue, frustration, and job burnout.

A new law co-authored by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and signed by President Joe Biden, will help prioritize mental health support, treatment, and care for doctors, nurses, and health workers while also reducing burnout and improving retention rates in the health care profession.

The newly enacted Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which was authored by U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, (D-VA) along with Senator Reed and U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), was first introduced in the summer of 2020.  It will fund federal grants, in-depth studies, and public awareness campaigns to encourage health care workers to seek support, access treatment, and eliminate the stigma that deters health care professionals from seeking mental and behavioral health care.

“The pandemic highlighted the tremendous amount of stress and strain that our doctors, nurses, and frontline health workers experience as they care for patients.  This new law will help reduce and prevent suicide and burnout.  Our health care workers literally work around the clock to help save lives and they experience stress and trauma of losing people just like everyone else.  While they’re looking out for patient health, we must look out for their well-being.  That means ensuring they have access to mental and emotional health support and interventions and this new law will help ensure they do,” said Senator Reed. “Doctors, nurses, and health aids take care of patients who need them.  The federal government must do its part to ensure the mental and physical health needs of our health care workforce are taken care of too.

Senator Kaine stated: “The mental health consequences of COVID-19 are particularly acute for our frontline health care healers, who’ve made tremendous sacrifices to care for their patients in uncharted times. This bill is a critical first step to provide them with mental health resources to cope with the challenges they face every day. Supporting our health care workforce will benefit everyone because we all need great medical professionals to take care of us and our loved ones. By keeping our health care professionals healthy, everyone in society wins.”

The law is named in honor of Dr. Lorna Breen, an emergency physician in New York City who took her own life in April 2020 after working on the frontlines to care for patients during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act will:

  • Establish grants for health profession schools, academic health centers, or other institutions to help them train health workers in strategies to prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders. The grants would also help improve health care professionals’ well-being and job satisfaction.
  • Seek to identify and disseminate evidence-informed best practices for reducing and preventing suicide and burnout among health care professionals, training health care professionals in appropriate strategies, and promoting their mental and behavioral health and job satisfaction.
  • Establish a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign targeting health care professionals to encourage them to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns.
  • Establish grants for health care providers and professional associations for employee education, peer-support programming, and mental and behavioral health treatment. Health care providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots will be prioritized.
  •  Establish a comprehensive study on health care professionals’ mental and behavioral health and burnout, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on such professionals’ health.