Background to learning
Nurses and midwives across the system are working hard to try to balance the impact of COVID-19 both personally, as well as at work whilst they support those they care for and the communities they serve. This unprecedented challenge emphasises how important health and wellbeing support is in helping nurses deal with these demands.
Nurses and midwives at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were keen to influence how psychological wellbeing can be sustained.
Learning and advice to be shared
The trust developed an in-house health and wellbeing support hub for staff, supported by psychologists from two local mental health providers. Accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the hub offers staff first aid, one-to-one mental health check, and access to a range of resources and hot and cold snacks. Supported by airline cabin crew from Project Wingman, the hub provides a welcomed a safe space away from busy workspaces.
The trust has also implemented an in-house emotional support service (ESS), enabling staff to access confidential mental health support either face-to-face or via the telephone. ESS services are supported by trained professionals with insight into the day-to-day pressures their colleagues may be experiencing during the pandemic. These services are provided in addition to the permanent employee assistance programmes extensive range of staff wellbeing services offered by partners CiC.
‘Health sheets’ for staff have also been developed. These focus on a range of topics, including exercise and lifestyle balance, through to coping with the consequences of the pandemic such as anxiety or loneliness.
Following discussion at the Chief Nursing Officer’s national Shared Professional Decision-Making Council on the 22 July 2020, other council members identified similar beneficial approaches to supporting staff health and wellbeing. Council members reflected on the use of both individual and group sessions and welcomed the use of multiple medias to ensure supportive resources were easily accessible.
The council noted the benefits of creating small groups of staff, including staff who may be isolating, as a support network either virtually or as a physical resource.
Within a number of trusts Schwartz rounds were considered to be helpful in supporting both clinical and non-clinical staff to discuss the emotional and social aspects of working in healthcare.
The importance of appreciating the skills, resources and support that senior managers within organisations bring to this piece of work was also reflected upon.
Would it be beneficial to retain these changes?
Council members reflected on the importance of staff wellbeing, especially during this unprecedented time. They suggested that beyond COVID-19 the approaches developed to support health and wellbeing might be:
- Establishment of safe spaces where staff can rest, get respite and access psychological wellbeing services where needed.
- Use of tools such as Schwartz rounds and resources in a range of formats via central ‘hubs’ to allow easy access for staff.
- Using a coordinated multidisciplinary approach to health and wellbeing to ensure people have access to the right support, via the right services, at the right time. Health and wellbeing guardian roles may also be helpful.
- Ensuring approaches remain fit for purpose and include the voice of colleagues across the points of care to ensure that people are looked after and have a sense of belonging. These are key elements of the recently published NHS People Plan.
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