A study comparing military veterans who deployed to a combat zone after 9/11 and health care workers working during the COVID-19 pandemic found similar levels of potential moral injury (PMI), with 46.1 percent of veterans and 50.7 percent of health care workers reporting PMI. 

PMI is a response that can occur following events that violate a person’s moral or ethical code. The study found that it is associated with significantly higher depressive symptoms and worse quality of life in both groups. 

Keith Meador, a professor of psychiatry and health policy and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, was an author on the report.

“In the health care context, that may look like not being able to provide the level of care one would like to provide due to the complexities of the ongoing pandemic,” Meador said. “As a result, [health care workers] were vulnerable to the consequences of potential moral injury and reduced quality of mental health, similarly to what we’ve seen in post-9/11 veterans.”

In an effort to improve the mental health of health care workers, Meador has worked together with Jason Nieuwsma, adjoint associate professor in the practice of integrative chaplaincy at Vanderbilt Divinity School, also an author on the report, to establish a Doctor of Ministry program at Vanderbilt which teaches skills to mitigate PMI. 

Additional COVID vaccine recommended for transplant recipients

Getting a booster dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 is particularly important for those who have had solid organ transplants, a study found. 

Those who are taking immunosuppressive medications to prevent the rejection of an organ transplant have a higher risk for COVID-19, but a third dose of mRNA Pfizer or Moderna vaccines provided substantially greater protection. The data showed that, among transplant patients, two doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine were 29 percent effective at preventing hospitalization due to COVID-19, while three doses were 77 percent effective.

“The immune response to vaccination is often blunted in people with moderate-to-severe immunosuppression,” said Wesley Self,  principal investigator on the study and associate professor of emergency medicine and vice president for clinical research networks and strategy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Hence, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a concern that immunocompromised people, such as those with a solid organ transplant, may not benefit from vaccination as much as immunocompetent people.” 

“Additional vaccine doses appear to substantially increase the effectiveness of vaccination for transplant patients,” he added. 

Belmont opens up applications for new mental health counseling Ph.D. 

A Ph.D. program in mental health counseling will be offered fall 2022 through the Belmont University College of Theology and Christian Ministry. 

The new Ph.D. program combines advanced spiritual and pastoral theological theories, a press release noted. 

“Our spiritually guided, research-informed curriculum will train students to become leaders in the field as they learn to provide excellent mental health care to those seeking support,” said Dr. Tom Knowles-Bagwell, associate director of mental health counseling.