Psychological well-being is one of the PPN’s work streams and it is important for all of us – service users/patients, carers, and ourselves and our colleagues.
Thinking about the NHS and social care workforce, there has been plenty written about stress in nurses, general practitioners, social workers, managers and so on. There are also many reports and reviews on the importance of well-being in the workforce. It is recognised that staff members who are healthy – both physically and mentally – deliver better care, better outcomes for the people they look after and are more productive. In acute hospital settings, this has been reflected in lower mortality figures where staff members have higher levels of psychological well-being.
Earlier this year, I was involved in a survey of psychological professionals undertaken for the New Savoy Partnership conference on Psychological Therapies. The survey asked about stress, targets, mood and views about job roles. There were over 800 respondents and most were psychological professionals. The findings showed that 59% found their jobs stressful and 72% felt pressured into meeting targets and 40% reported feeling depressed but 70% found their jobs interesting. I think this points up an interesting juxtaposition of views where people do appear to like what they do but find the environment in which they work challenging. The comments provided by the participants supported this with comments such as ‘love my job’ but described having to meet too many targets or having too much administrative work. Although the survey may not be representative and the self-selected sample may have had specific comments to make, it does point up that psychological professionals are not immune from feelings of stress and burnout. So what can we do about it?
In our work as psychological professionals, we work collaboratively with people to help them identify what is difficult for them and then helping them find ways to improve this. A lot has been written about reflective spaces to enable people to think about what they do. Clinical supervision can often support this reflection too. In addition, using our own skills and self-management techniques can be helpful as well as Schwartz rounds that can enable the recognition of the emotional impact of caring. Many of these areas of work are where psychological professionals also offer their skills to the wider workforce e.g. complex case formulation, reflective practice groups, Schwartz rounds facilitation, training in self-management techniques.
How much though do we do this for ourselves? I’m sure there are many of us that do ensure that we have clinical supervision, reflective space and also time to recharge ourselves to be able to offer our skills in roles that we are passionate about. However, I think there are examples of where some of us aren’t able to access adequate supervision or where we push ourselves just that bit further to make that difference to as many people as possible without looking after our own well-being. How many times is it that we advise others but do not take that advice ourselves? So what can you, me and the PPN do about it? I guess the first thing is to stop and check out whether we do have what we need to maintain us in place and if not what we can do about it? Also, what can we do with our environment? Is there scope to check in with colleagues at least once a month to share where we are and if not – what can be done to change it? Also, what could PPN offer to developing our communities of practice to support ourselves wherever we are? We’d like to hear from you. It’s important that we as psychological professionals can demonstrate that we do try to look after ourselves as much as we offer our skills in helping others develop or manage themselves – Do as I do (and say)…?