Virtua Launches Free COVID-19 Support Group
Online meetings will help patients and survivors cope with physical and emotional challenges from the illness
Virtua Health is starting a free support group for people with COVID-19 and those who have recovered from the illness. It is believed to be South Jersey’s first such group organized by a health system.
Virtua social workers will lead the Virtua COVID-19 Patient Support Group, which will meet online through Zoom. The first session will take place on Thursday, September 3, from noon to 1 p.m. Meetings will occur every other Thursday, for a total of five sessions.
“COVID-19 can be very challenging both physically and emotionally, so a support group is very important for these patients,” said Gina Pimentel, a Virtua social-work manager who’s organizing the group. “It’s a very isolating illness, there are still many unknowns, and symptoms can continue for months.”
Research shows that patient support groups help people cope with their condition, she noted.
“This group will give people a voice and enable them to connect with others who are going through similar things,” Pimentel explained. “It will help people deal with the effects of this illness and feel less alone.”
Isolation, for example, can trigger depression and anxiety, she noted. And the symptoms of such mental-health issues can be similar to COVID-19 symptoms, such as exhaustion or shortness of breath.
“It’s very scary for people, so a support group can really help,” Pimentel said.
In order to promote engaged conversation and ongoing relationships, the group will be kept to a limited number of participants. A second group may be formed, depending on the level of interest from the community. In South Jersey’s tri-county area where Virtua operates, more than 18,000 people have been infected with COVID-19, also called the novel coronavirus.
“We strive to be an ongoing partner in people’s health, and this is another way to do that,” said Pimentel. Other Virtua support groups include post-partum, cancer survivorship, smoking cessation, and bariatric (weight-loss) surgery groups. All meetings are online due to the pandemic.
To register for the Virtua COVID-19 Patient Support Group, email ACSupport@virtua.org. You will be asked to complete a short survey and provide an email address in order to receive the Zoom link. Space is limited, and qualified registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.