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10 Tips for Success & Self-Care for Academics

cozy-dog

Another guilt trip about the importance of self care and being successful? That is why many people will read blog posts like this. We know we should be practising self care and succeeding, but do we really know how to thrive?

(I could not find a concept analysis for either success or self care – please let me know if you do)

We must presume that both success and self-care mean something different to each and every one of us. I am no expert on these topics…. is anyone?…But I think I am pretty good at caring for myself now and working towards success…having learnt the hard way. So I thought I would share some of my hints and tips. Feel free to adapt them, use them, completely ignore them, or ridicule them as ‘poppycock’.

Most people will expect to hear things like:

  • Take a bubble bath
  • Watch your favorite film
  • Curl up with a good book
  • Work hard
  • Network

But I am sure that you know about this kind of stuff already. So let’s look at self care and success for the academic, firstly by identifying the issues that some of us may face.

As an early career researcher, I am frequently told about the stereotyping and inequalities experienced by women in academia. I myself frequently worry about the insecurity of, and problems associated with being an early career researcher, especially a female one.…I worry about where I will find my next job, funding or co-author. I worry about whether I am making any impact at all and whether I will be able to reach my true potential as an academic in the current climate. Academic pressures are in no way restricted to those earlier in their career, many more established researchers are also feeling the strain. These experiences will undoubtedly result in some psychological distress for many academics. So what can we do both proactively and preventatively to improve the lives of ourselves and each other.

Research can seem like a lot of hard work for little reward.

Tip One: Keep your eye on the goal. Visualize yourself being happy, frequently. How would it feel to publish that paper? Get that fellowship? Collaborate on that project? Create your own self-fulfilling prophecy rather than focus on a possible spiral of doom.

How to do this? – Identify what makes you happy, or what will make you happy. Then do more of what makes you happy, or have a real go at getting what will make you happy. I personally love my research work. I know that many other academics feel the same way. Happiness to me is succeeding, making a difference  and making a real impact through my work. The stress I feel is associated with this not happening.

This stress and negative thinking serves no purpose unless it positively drives me towards my goal. Yet who wants to be whipped to the goal posts?  I use visualization as a driver for success. I see myself feeling and being the way I want to be…and I allow myself to believe that this vision will come true. This makes me much happier than thinking about the alternative. So I stick with it.

The practice of meditation may also assist you to work through your thoughts, direct them towards a more positive outlook and allow your goals to become meaningful and achievable.

As these tips continue, think about your own goals for happiness…whatever they may be…think about achieving them in relation to these tips and your own experiences.

I behave in the way I want to feel or be… Surely if I continue in this direction. Good things will come…

Tip Two: The problem of job insecurity for early career academics baffles me as Job security for early career researchers is a significant factor in helping research make an impact. Yet this seems to play on my mind recurrently. It is always a worry. However, worry really does nothing to resolve this issue, and only seeks to get in the way of my progress. In order to progress, I will need to ‘work smarter’ and embrace confidence in my own abilities. Worry and negative thinking has no place in this strategy.

Negative thoughts often lie, and so I swipe them away one by one by placing them on a train that is passing the station (Visualization) – I then sit for a little longer, and imagine the way I will feel and be once I reach my goals. My mood and stress instantly lifts once I do this. I am more confident and feel much stronger. I am ready to be happy.

 

Tip 3: Say No and be proactive – We need to look at what successful academics do. From my observations, they often say ‘No’ to anything that doesn’t suit their own focused agenda (they remove the ‘noise’ and toxicity), they ooze positivity, they are confident, they are assertive, they tell people what they need to succeed and they hang around with the most inspiring people. Therefore, the most obvious strategy is for us to do the same. Say ‘No’ to negativity, and to the people and things which do not enrich us as people. Let people know what you need in order to thrive. Embrace those you feel drawn towards as positive people.

Activity: Making the best of me…

1: Ask yourself how others can get the best out of you

2: Offer what you can realistically do

3: Communicate what inhibits your productivity with others

4: Actively describe what you need from others in order to thrive

Getting the best of me

Tip 4: Express gratitude and forgiveness for enhanced wellbeing. Not always easy, but worth investing in. This task not only unburdens your mind, but allows you to see all of the good things currently going on in your life. Regularly write down 5 things that you are grateful for. Also…try to forgive yourself, and others…often.

 

Tip 5: Address your work life balance as a fluid entity. I believe that the idea of a separate home and work life is changing. This is a good thing. It takes the pressure off and allows you to be a whole person, rather than one split in two…See yourself as a whole being, a working, living and family centred being. You cannot slice yourself into pieces.

See this blog -> ‘Work’ is a verb rather than a noun…it is something we do…not always somewhere we go…

Living in the ‘now’ rather than being at either home or work also allows us to enjoy more of ourselves and our lives. Notice where you are, what you are doing…Smell the flowers, look around you as you move, work, play and just allow yourself to ‘be’.

smell-the-flowers

Tip 6: Eat Sleep move, repeat. It really is that simple, but utterly essential for optimum productivity, stress reduction, health and wellbeing. Eat nutritious food regularly, sleep 7-8 hours a night and move…Exercise, walk, swim, run, cycle…Be outdoors as often as possible.

float

Tip 7: Write. Write your thoughts, your feelings, your ‘to do’ lists, your ideas, your goals down regularly. This not only means that they are out of your head, allowing your mind to be quieter, they are also made real…They are good to share..and worth addressing (when you feel able).

Tip 8: Talk about who you are. There is a tendency to talk about work first. What we do, what we are working on and what we are planning to work on. Start new conversations with how you enjoy your hobbies or your favourite music. This lets other people know that you are indeed human, and it also gives you an identity other than your work persona. Be authentic. It is healthy for you, and others to know the real and whole you. You are fab 🙂

Tip 9: Help other people and accept help yourself. Lift one another up, support colleagues, show gratitude, offer support and guidance where you can. Be a mentor. Be a positive role model. Be the change you want to see in the workplace and accept all of this in return. This will not only make you feel good, it will change the culture of your workplace, and bring about reciprocity for everyone’s success.

LiftEachotherUp_libbyvanderploeg

(Image via http://www.libbyvanderploeg.com/#/lifteachotherup/)

Tip 10: Celebrate the successes of yourself and others. Yes. Focus on the great things that you and your colleagues have achieved. However big or small, these feelings of success will snowball into a self fulfilling prophecy, where you feel valued, supported and part of a team that cares. Some people will feel uncomfortable about doing this, and feel icky when they see others wallow in their own brilliance. But what is the alternative? We all talk about how rubbish we all are? How will that make us feel?…

Spend time reflecting on what you have achieved. Write them down…use these achievements to inform your own vision of yourself…This is who you are. You are great.

As long as the feelings of celebration and success are reciprocated and directed towards others as well as yourself….Let the high fives roll.

Image result for the highest of fives gif

I do hope that these tips will resonate with some academics looking for something new to try. In the spirit of sharing, please feel free to add more tips below.

You deserve to be happy – Until next time, look after yourselves and each other ❤💙💜

 

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Why the health, wellbeing & engagement of #NHS staff matters..financially, practically & morally speaking…

wellbeing-of-nhs-staff-a-benefit-evaluation-model
I spend a lot of my time talking to clinicians, managers, commissioners, those outside of healthcare and leaders about the importance of promoting and supporting staff wellbeing within the #NHS workplace. Some are already on board with the reality that excellence in healthcare simply cannot happen in the absence of a workforce that is cared for and nurtured to thrive. Others feel discomfort at the thought of caring for staff when the ‘patient comes first’ and some simply don’t know what to do for the best. In any case, nobody seems to want to destroy the NHS workforce (correct me if I am wrong)!… and everyone seems to want to learn more.

A good staff experience where staff feel ‘engaged’ is critical to  achieving excellence in healthcare…What do we mean by ‘Staff Engagement’?

‘Institute for Employment Studies (IES), defined staff engagement as a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee (Robinson et al 2004, p 4).’
Recently, I was asked to provide some evidence as to why the wellbeing of NHS staff matters by someone else who was keen to make a difference in this area. They needed to make the case to others in order to make change happen. I imagine that lots of other change makers will be needing to provide evidence too, and so I have set out some arguments for the case below. I hope many of you will find it useful to have some of the arguments in one place.
Image result for staff engagement nhs employers

Please feel free to share this evidence widely with others…. If you have other evidence to add to this, please feel free to comment below…

(There can never be too much to share)!

Financial reasons to care for NHS staff:

Over 2014/2015, the NHS Litigation authority (NHSLA) paid over £1.1 billion to patients who suffered harm and their legal representatives, this coming year it will be c £1.4 billion and with accumulated provisions in our balance sheet of over £28 billion further significant increases are already in the pipeline. When staff are unwell, in psychological distress, communication is hampered by poor working cultures and there is a lack of staff engagement, NHS staff are more likely to make medical errors (Hall et al, 2016).

Good staff health, wellbeing & engagement = reduced medical errors = reduced litigation costs

Estimates suggest that recruiting a nurse from overseas costs between £2,000 and £12,000 and return-to-practice costs some £2,000 per nurse, while training a new nurse costs around £79,000. Additionally, recruitment costs to replace staff who leave owing to work-related stress and/or poor job satisfaction is estimated to be £4500 (More for senior posts). As such, in order to get best value for money, the NHS will need to work hard to retain and recruit a high quality workforce.

Good staff health, wellbeing & engagement

= Increased recruitment and retention = Best value for money

Staff sickness absence rates cost an estimated £3.3million annually per NHS organisation. When staff are absent, there is the added cost of agency staff to fill in gaps (The NHS Improvement team now expect the NHS to spend a total of £3.7 billion on agency staff by the end of the 2015/16 financial year).The Francis inquiry into Mid Staffordshire also exposed the consequences for patients and staff of not addressing this issue of staff morale and sickness. Typically, if an NHS organisation reduced staff sickness rates by a third,it would provide an additional 3.4 million working days a year for NHS staff, equivalent to 14,900 full-time staff, saving an estimated £555 million.

Good staff health, wellbeing & engagement = Decrease in sickness absence = reduced agency/sickness spend & therefore, improved patient care

Image result for staff engagement nhs healthcare
(Image source :http://www.slicedbread.co.uk/solutions/employee-engagement/)

Practical reasons to care for NHS staff:

Ultimately and practically, the NHS exists to provide high quality and safe care to patients. Evidence so far shows that better staff health and wellbeing is associated with improved patient outcomes.
Some of the many benefits to improved NHS wellbeing is that better staff health results in lower infection rates and lower standardised mortality figures. The Keogh review of 14 hospital trusts with high patient mortality rates found all these trusts also had higher levels of staff sickness, compared to national average.

Good staff health, wellbeing & engagement = Safer and higher quality patient care

When an NHS organisation invests in staff health, wellbeing and engagement, they improve their ‘Brand’. Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, and its impact shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to engaging staff with health and wellbeing initiatives.

Good staff health, wellbeing & engagement = Your NHS organisation looks good & therefore attracts more staff

A report from the Kingsfund suggests that job satisfaction, organisational commitment, turnover intentions, and physical and mental wellbeing of employees are predictors of key organisational outcomes such as effectiveness, productivity and innovation. Everyone wants more of these things..right? They all have the potential to save money and improve the safety and quality of care.

Good staff health, wellbeing & engagement = Higher productivity, staff effectiveness and innovation = Cash savings and better services

Image result for staff engagement nhs healthcare

Moral reasons to care for NHS staff:

Staff are entitled to a psychologically and physically safe professional journey. Caring for them is not an optional issue, it is an ethical one.

 

When staff are well cared for, they experience greater job satisfaction, improved morale and general wellbeing. Few aspire to be ill, and many feel great shame in letting others down or asking for help.
Where the emotionality of distressing work  remains unrecognised and void of support, distorted thinking, emotional distress, reduced productivity, increased sickness rates, poor decision making, and maladaptive patterns of behaviour may present. Physical symptoms can also result, where severe job stress evokes irregular menstrual bleeding patterns for female healthcare workers, poor sleep quality and bodily exhaustion.
The NHS workforce is one of the largest work forces in the world. They are patients, they are the public, as are their friends and families. As such, by caring for this group, we are also caring for a large part of society. Moreover, there is also a strong statistical link between the wellbeing of staff and patient satisfaction. This means that if we are failing to care for staff, we are also missing an opportunity to improve patient satisfaction.

Good staff health, wellbeing & engagement = A nice and decent thing to do for all.

Image result for staff engagement nhs employers

There are many more reasons for NHS organisations to care about the the health, wellbeing & engagement of their staff..Financially, practically & morally speaking… Please feel free to add these below.
I hope that these few facts and figures can be shared and used to convince everyone throughout the NHS of these facts. Many will say that it is the patient that must come first. However, I argue that excellence in health and social care may only be achieved if both the staff and patients are cared for equally, as they work in partnership to achieve the best outcomes.

Looking for ways to turn this vision into practice? See my blog on 20 ways to create a thriving NHS workforce here

Until next time, look after yourselves and each other 💛💙💜💚.
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Partnering with the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology – Sri Lanka…

colombo institute of research and psychology

colombo institute of research and psychology

I apologize for the lack of posts over the last 2 weeks. I have been to visit the wonderful people in the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology and the National Institute of Mental Health, Angoda.Then of course I had to deal with copious amounts of work/emails upon my return, which I am sure will fill exciting posts to come.

When I embarked upon this research journey, I also signed up for the Global Leaders Programme at Coventry University. I did this to become a part of the global healthcare community and reach key opinion leaders with the same directive goals as myself…Starting the conversation has always been the most productive way to make change happen. Indeed, it has already put me in touch with some inspiring people, and this trip proved to be no different.

I have always had a keen interest in getting to know how the various healthcare systems across our globe work. We are all human… so what works best? I have already visited the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul, The Gambia and the Gimbie Adventist Hospital, Ethiopia. With the help of Maternity Worldwide and clinical work placements, I was privileged to have the opportunity to see how our health care systems contrast and compare to other healthcare systems around the globe. I was excited to take part in this visit, which promised to enlighten us all to the mental healthcare provisions and psychology research in Sri Lanka.

National Institute of Mental Health, Angoda Colombo, Sri Lanka

National Institute of Mental Health, Angoda Colombo, Sri Lanka

Speaking with the researchers in the Colombo Institute of Research and Psychology, it was clear that their research shared the same concerns as western research. Healthy debates generated interesting insights into the work they were forming in breaking stigma and securing new funding for the people of Sri Lanka. However, their population base faces some new and very real challenges:

-Less than 1% of Sri Lankas healthcare budget is spent on the mental health care of the nation.

-Sri Lankan communities often use astrology and homeopathic remedies to treat mental ill health rather than access medical facilities.

– There are only 2 psychiatric consultants for the whole of Colombo and surrounding areas.

-Limited facilities for mother and baby units, which need more space for mentally unwell mothers and their families. (In Sri Lanka, reported maternal death due to suicide is notably high) – See Puerperal Psychosis.

– The stigma around mental health issues remains great in Sri Lanka, therefore many of those who may be ready to re-enter their communities following treatment have no where to return to. They become rejected by their families.

– This stigma creates a culture where those in need are reluctant to seek help.

– Families are keen not to disclose the mental ill health of loved ones and may isolate problems.

-Mental health facilities are used as holding places for those on remand following the identification of the antisocial behavioral symptoms of ill mental health.

Speaking to one of the consultant psychiatrists about these issues was so valuable to my research. Comparing the etiologies of psychological distress with the cultures and social norms of both populations highlighted how our UK populations may face triggers for distress which are entirely unique to the UK. Although some of these factors will also translate to other populations, it may be that specific factors correlate only with our own health care professionals, within western society.

From the point of view of research, this leaves much to be explored. How do we breakdown the populations into completely homogeneous samples? Is it ever possible to?

After speaking with Dr Shavindra Dias from the University of Peradeniya, (which by the way is the most beautiful university campus I have ever seen!) it is clear that the connections I have made throughout this research trip will last throughout my career as I continue to network with and learn from some of the most outstanding and inspirational leaders who take pride in making changes to ensure a brighter future for all. The struggle to improve the overall well being of society by authenticating and placing value upon the needs of those in psychological distress is hard. Yet I still believe that is the most noble and kind thing we can do for humanity. The connections I have made throughout this trip will forever remain a part of my professional journey going forward, and I would like to thank @PsychColombo again for hosting such an amazing trip of discovery in partnership with @covcampus.

In addition to this wonderful experience we also visited:

-Galle Face Green

-Galle Fort

-The National Museum of Colombo

-International Maritime Museum in Colombo

– The National Elephant Orphanage

-The Temple of the Tooth

-Anuradhapura

-Botanical Gardens

-Tea Factories

View from the World Trade Centre in Colombo

View from the World Trade Centre in Colombo

Sri Lankan Elephant Orphanage

Sri Lankan Elephant Orphanage

I hope to reunite with the amazing people I met here soon…. Perhaps for my up and coming Delphi Study?

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Naming Mental Health as the Cause for Disaster means a Reversal of Gains to Reduce Stigma

I am almost at a loss for words when I see the headlines in relation to Andreas Lubitz and the tragedy of Germanwings 4U9525. The horror is unbearable, but the press coverage surrounding the story has been abhorrent. I am scared to write this post as I do not want my words to detract from the pain that the families involved must be feeling…and I am sure I will not cover this issue as well as @MentalHealthCop or @BlurtAlerts… but I must share my thoughts.

Relating this story back to my own PhD research in supporting health professionals in psychological distress, this story should remind us all that high profile jobs in high pressure environments placed in the public eye can produce adverse health problems. Many people have been questioning what ‘Burnout’ actually is. For clarity I will define this as follows:

Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion. Burnout has been defined by Maslach as a syndrome consisting of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, negative thinking towards others and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment (Maslach, 1986, Maslach, 1996).

Moving on to depression:

“Depression is a common, disabling disorder characterized by a period of at least two weeks in which a person loses pleasure in nearly all activities and/or exhibits a depressed mood“(Stewart et al, 2004;19).

Symptoms of major depression include feelings of sadness and hopelessness, diminished pleasure, changes in weight, changes in sleep patterns, lack of interest in life, chronic fatigue, a sense of worthlessness or guilt, muddled thinking and poor decision making (APA, 2013).

Sadly depression can affect all areas of a persons life, and yes some of those with depression will die by suicide. However, the headlines seemingly suggest that depression is the cause of this ‘Murder’. It will not be the only cause of this tragedy, and nothing is confirmed as yet. It frightens me to think that these assumptions are coming up so thick and fast before the facts are known. This highlights to me the stigma still apparent and surfacing in the wake of fear.

We do not know all of the facts, perhaps Andreas dissociated from everything around him and any decisions he may have been making, perhaps this is something completely unrelated. Whatever happened, the headlines of this story are damaging and risk the reversal of any progress we have made in reducing stigma.

Some news companies are scaremongering and stating that nobody with depression should be allowed to fly a plane. This at least makes a change from them saying that all those with depression are ‘fit to work and lazy’ – but I digress.

This idea is ridiculous as those with mental health issues can achieve great things… remember 1 in 4??? Do we get rid of 1/4 of our pilots?

What if our pilots have a headache? what if they have a brain tumor? what if they have a seizure whilst in flight? – the ridiculous parodies may continue…

I was hoping this would get people talking about what can be done to support those in *potential* psychological distress in order to improve overall services, instead it has led to an immediate reaction of fear. I am hoping the long term story will be a different one.

American Psychological Association (APA) (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (V) American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC (2013)

Maslach C, Jackson SE. Maslach Burnout Inventory Manual, 2nd edn. Palo Alto (CA): Consulting Psychologists Press Inc; 1986.

Maslach, C Jackson, S Leiter, M, Schaufeli, W, Schwab, R (1996) MBI: The Maslach Burnout Inventory: Manual. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto (1996)

Stewart Donna ; Gucciardi Enza ; Grace Sherry (2004) Depression BMC Women’s Health, 2004, Vol.4(Suppl+1), p.S19

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Health Professionals who Die by Suicide – 5 Tips for Change


If the content of this post has affected you in any way, please visit the support page of this blog….

Yesterday was #NHSChangeDay, and I pledged to #StartTheConversation and raise awareness about health professionals who are in psychological distress. As it happens, @WeDocs conveniently hosted a  #WeDocs Tweetchat on preventing suicide in health care professional populations. It was great to see an issue I feel so passionate about being discussed, shared and given some much needed attention. This kind of innovative Twitter usage is one of the things I love about our NHS radicals!

Throughout the conversation, there were seemingly many people concerned and wanting to prevent clinician suicide, but not many solutions to prevention were put forward. -> See the chat summary here

A recent situational analysis into Suicide by clinicians involved in serious incidents in the NHS has identified the current support services available clinical staff, yet there is no consensus on how to effectively support clinical staff, and nobody has yet taken responsibility for the well being of NHS staff (Strobl et al, 2014). This has been further complicated by the fact that Clinicians often have difficulty in recognising symptoms and risk factors associated with their own suicidal behaviour (Goldney et al, 2002). Clinicians are at a higher risk of suicide than the general population, can be misunderstood and left unsupported whilst under immense pressure (Chan et al, 2014). The GMC have recently published a report in regards to a high rate of professionals dying by suicide whilst under investigation. A tragedy for all.

Psychological safety for NHS staff is critical for patient safety and every shiny new white paper will tell you this. But it is also critical for the NHS’s ‘ethical well being’ to care for it’s staff. If the NHS as an organization lets its staff suffer, how will it ever live with itself? The trauma will inevitably become endemic.

So what changes can we make to prevent suicide?

1. We could treat NHS staff as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ & eradicate ‘Name Blame and Shame’ Cultures.

2. Consider that poor behaviour may actually be ‘ill’ behaviour in need of medical treatment before disciplinary action takes place (Brooks et al, 2014).

3. Consider alternatives to discipline & create psychologically safe work cultures.

4.Expose investigation staff to front line clinical practice to understand organizational cultures and pressures.

5. Develop a tailor made national support programme for NHS staff which is confidential, anonymous and provides professional amnesty (The aim of my entire PhD research project)

Also… please keep the conversation going 🙂

Brooks, S, Del Busso, L, Chalder, T, Harvey, S ,Hatch, S, Hotopf, M, MadanHenderson, M (2014) ‘You feel you’ve been bad, not ill’: Sick doctors’ experiences of interactions with the General Medical Council BMJ Open 2014;Vol.4 (7) :e005537 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005537.

Chan, W., Batterham, P., Christensen, H., Galletly, C (2014) Suicide literacy, suicide stigma and help-seeking intentions in Australian medical students. Australas Psychiatry April 2014 vol. 22 no. 2 132-139

Goldney RD, Fisher LJ, Wilson DH (2002). Mental health literacy of those with major depression and suicidal ideation: an impediment to help seeking. Suicide Life Threat Behav 2002; 32: 394–403.

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A failing NHS… A self fulfilling prophecy?

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion” (Dalia Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness).

I would firstly like to point out in this post that I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I have always understood the power of the self fulfilling prophecy. It therefore baffles me how the media, political leaders and top think tanks can demonize the NHS front line staff by telling them that they are failing on a daily basis!

These sandbaggers continue to display a strategy, involving the false prediction or feigned demonstration of inability in NHS staff (Gibson et al, 2000). The danger is that NHS staff will begin to believe what they hear, and perhaps even become the terrible people they are being currently described as. Thus, the false prophecy will be fulfilled.

Negative press is inevitably damaging the self esteem of NHS staff, and low self-esteem in itself can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading staff to act in negative, unhelpful ways (Marshall et al, 2015). So why does this continue? Has nobody told them of the damage they are doing? (I think not!)

We all deserve compassion, and most of all, self compassion. Nobody goes to work to be mediocre or fail.

Self compassion is described as “being touched by and open to one’s own suffering, not avoiding or disconnecting from it, generating the desire to alleviate one’s suffering and to heal oneself with kindness. Self-compassion also involves offering nonjudgmental understanding to one’s pain, inadequacies, and failures, so that one’s experience is seen as part of the larger human experience” (Neff, 2003).

When we are predicted lower performance we are more likely to actually perform worse – it works as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The media and key leaders thus have the capacity to shape the confidence of NHS staff and influence their performance in both positive and negative ways. In particular, by showing that they believe in “our team,” leaders are able not only to make “us” a psychological reality, but also to transform “us” into an effective operational unit (Fransen et al, 2014).

So please, stop battering the NHS staff, but lift them up to believe they are the best thing ever! (which they are by the way)!

Give them a new prophecy to fulfill, and make it a good one.

Gibson, D.A. Sachau (2000) Sandbagging as a self-presentational strategy: Claiming to be less than you are. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26 (2000), pp. 56–70

Fransen, Katrien, et al. “Believing in “Us”: Exploring Leaders’ Capacity to Enhance Team Confidence and Performance by Building a Sense of Shared Social Identity.” (2014).

Marshall, Sarah L., et al. “Self-compassion protects against the negative effects of low self-esteem: A longitudinal study in a large adolescent sample.”Personality and Individual Differences 74 (2015): 116-121.

Neff, K (2003) Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2 (2003), pp. 85–102

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Should NHS Staff really ‘have’ to be resilient?

Firstly, I was very happy to see the issue of NHS staff stress and burnout recognized within the Lancet this week

Trawling through the literature this week and talking to colleagues, I find the word ‘resilience’ being thrown around as an offerable solution to stress. Resilience training has seemingly been offered as a tick box exercise to ‘equip’ staff with the right weapons to defend themselves, but should they have to be at war with the system?

‘Resilience is essential now for a nursing leader; you just won’t survive without it,’

Are we to be on guard at all times?

The word ‘resilience’ conjures up images of holding up the fort, guarding the gates and resisting some kind of attack. We are giving our warriors weapons for a fight.

So…after we have received our resilience training, are we expected to then cope?

Following any other form of NHS training, this would be the case. Training day = See one, do one, teach one…..right?

So, having been to resilience class, we no longer have any excuses NOT to cope…do we?

Suggesting that resilience is the remedy to cope with stressful situations, is to suggest that some people can cope, and others just cannot. ‘You either have it or you don’t’

Can it really be taught?

What if you have been to resilience training and you are still struggling?

With the stigma associated with ‘not coping’, the majority of clinicians will not feel able to seek help (Munro, 2011).

I am concerned that the focus of remedy seems to be based upon the resilience of clinicians and their abilities to cope rather than the fact that some of the things they have to deal with on a daily basis, should not be occurring in the first place. (Bullying, stigma, name, blame and shame cultures, punitive action and burnout etc..)!

There are obviously daily events which put a strain on our NHS workforce that are outside of any control. Can we ever prepare ourselves for coping with such things?

Sometimes, no amount of armor will protect us from the pain of experiencing a traumatic incident. Therefore, suggesting that there is a magic weapon to protect us from such things may be a dangerous thing.

One cannot fix the pressures of NHS work with training alone.

We all suffer from the condition of being ‘human’ – Should we ‘have’ to be resilient to a toxic work environment?

Or should the NHS be remedied to care for us when no amount of resilience training can catch us when we fall?

Resilience is a dangerous word with many connotations. There should be no bar set for what it takes to ‘cope’…the price of expectation is too high.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this – please see the support page if you have been affected by anything discussed within this article.

Munro, R (2011) Sick day scrutiny: as the NHS seeks to slash its 3 billion [pounds sterling] annual staff absence bill, nurses are facing tougher checks on leave taken; Nursing standard [0029-6570] Munro, Robert yr: 2011 vol:25 iss:18 pg:24