Issues, enablers and good practice

Lots of great ideas were discussed at the launch of the network in July, and it took some time to find a way to sort them. Here is a quick summary of the main points.

Issues

The wordcloud here (thanks to wordclouds.com) gives a quick impression of what’s on our minds. We recognise great variation in the availability of support for staff wellbeing in Thames Valley. Some of the workforce feel isolated and do not have access to clinical supervision or mentoring.

Physical and mental health are inextricably linked. Whilst training courses and wellbeing sessions will help some individuals, the workplace culture and environment can either serve to undermine or support our wellbeing. Health professionals can feel afraid to say they are unwell or are struggling with addiction: fear of stigmatisation remains a barrier to requesting help. Burnout and emotional exhaustion are key drivers of staff turnover, and we recognise that the causes have to be tackled if we are to address chronic staff shortages and increasing workload in our region.

Enablers

I’ve chosen the term enablers to cover the organisations and workplace structures that support staff wellbeing. We shared a range of positive initiatives, relevant courses, organisations and frameworks in our discussions.

What strikes me about these observations is that there is no shortage of good initiatives, courses, legal frameworks and public bodies that can help us improve staff wellbeing in Thames Valley. Yet none of us can see the whole picture, so the need to share information, meet our colleagues and exchange ideas is as great as it ever was. The explicit support of managers and a genuine commitment to flexible working is at least as important as a Wellbeing action plan, if not more so. We need to allow time and space for staff to reflect on the stresses of the workplace and support each other, and this may mean changing the conversation to focus on what matters to us, rather than what’s the matter with us. Person-centred care begins in the way our teams work.

Good practice

This category overlaps with enablers to some extent, but there are specific approaches here that are worth noting. (BTW this shape is meant to be an apple!)

Again the need for structured time and space for reflection in the workplace is proposed (such as supervision, debriefing meetings, retreats and away-days), and adequate staffing, but there is also a need for self-awareness and reciprocity amongst team members (e.g. honesty with colleagues and buddying processes). Time for breaks is a key problem: whereas other professionals have protected time for lunch, etc, many healthcare staff work through their breaks to the detriment of their health and at risk to the quality of their work.

Other key points here concern the quality of the working environment – adequate light, furniture, desks, etc. Given the huge cost of workplace injuries such as RSI, these aspects are fundamental to maintaining staff safety and wellbeing.

Next steps

In addition to the themes I have briefly summarised above, participants at the launch suggested topics, speakers and venues. These are part of the shopping list for future events that we are exploring now. We hope to collaborate with other networks, organisations and associations wherever possible. Ideas and offers of help are always welcome…

More to follow soon.

Published by Rhonda Riachi

Consultant in education, health and community work

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