Prepare, train and support

Prepare, train and support

There are many things that protect health and social care staff against the emotional toll of the work they do with people who are seriously ill, or vulnerable in other ways. These include the support we get from colleagues, a sense of purpose and pride in doing an important job to the best of our abilities.

Another thing that buffers us is a sense of expectation. Health and social care staff know that their work will involve caring for people who are vulnerable and seriously ill. This understanding and sense of preparation means we’re more able to cope with the emotional impact of our work because we have an idea what to expect and feel confident we can do something positive to help.

The pandemic has brought demands and changes that exceed our usual expectations so we need to do all we can to prepare and support people as they face the new challenges of their work roles.

This means having good induction plans in place for people who are new in post, redeployed or perhaps returning to the workforce from retirement. And remembering that although they may be experienced, senior staff, if they’re in an unfamiliar role and a new setting then they may feel deskilled.

It is important to acknowledge the exceptional challenges of the pandemic and to support staff to draw on their existing skills and experience. Help staff to access training that will aid them in their role and build confidence.

Staff working ICU or in residential care may be familiar with end of life care but are facing new demands from the number of people dying, the challenges of working in PPE, and a potential sense of helplessness that they can’t deliver their usual care.

Other health and social care staff may be anxious that they can’t support vulnerable people during the lockdown and worry that they’re not doing enough to protect people.

In these circumstances, and in the context of chronic stress and exhaustion, there is a risk of staff feeling guilt that they haven’t done more, and shame that they’ve fallen short of their personal and professional values. This is called a moral injury.

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