Carl Schroeder, a registered nurse on 4 East, has been working for Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento since February 2020, right before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been busy ever since caring for our patients, including during the pandemic’s several surges.
Prior to working at KP, he was a travel nurse working with pediatric patients. He has a reputation among his colleagues as “always being happy.” But when one of his fellow nurses approached him in August 2022 and generously asked, “How are you?”, his reaction was unexpected. He became teary eyed and had to excuse himself. He realized then that he needed help for his emotional well-being and called the Employee & Physician Assistance Program (EAP).
For over 16 years Carl has been dedicated to maintaining his physical well-being. He stayed active by lifting weights and rock climbing, and often meal-prepped, eating mostly real, whole foods like fresh produce. He assumed that “If I keep myself strong physically, then I should be strong mentally.”
But like many health care workers, the last few years have been difficult. He worked in the designated COVID unit and, if that wasn’t challenging enough, his partner was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2021.
“She is my rock, and now I had to be hers,” said Carl. “Taking care of patients at work, then to come home to be a caregiver, it started to get stressful.” After a while he noticed that his demeaner at work changed. He became more fatigued and irritable and found it more challenging to cope with the daily stressors.
Carl noted that health care workers are especially good at taking care of others, but not always themselves. “I had noticed the EAP flyers around the units many times, but didn’t think much of it,” he said. Then one day in August 2022, he was overcome by emotions at work. When he found a moment to “be calm,” he saw the EAP flyer on the bathroom wall and made the call.
He was able to connect to an EAP consultant quickly, and she connected him to a KP medical social worker for triage. Through that initial contact, he was referred to AbleTo, and an outside mental health service with a variety of programs to support one’s emotional well-being.
He enrolled in a 12-week cognitive therapy (CT) program to help address and treat his acute anxiety and depressive episodes, and ultimately assigned a diagnosis of adjustment disorder for which he received treatment. “It did wonders to help with my stressors and issues I was not aware of, and the cost was covered by KP.”
After completing the CT program, Carl continued to maintain his emotional well-being with daily meditation. “It has become a routine I do every morning before work — I take 5 to 10 minutes to meditate.”
He admits it took time to get used to it, but this is how he stays in touch with himself; a check-in to see how he is doing. “It is a great self-care practice that is healing and beneficial,” he said.
Carl now encourages his colleagues to take care of their mental health and seek help when needed.
“The goal of sharing my experience is to make sure we reduce the stigma of reaching out to receive mental health services. I am very proud of myself for doing it and sticking with it, and hope others who need it will do the same,” he said.
We encourage you to make your emotional well-being be a priority. EAP, the MindfulHub and the KP self-care apps, such as Calm and Ginger, are just a few of the many resources and services available to support your self-care, emotional well-being, and overall wellness.