Delighted to be asked to write a blog for the WARD team. But honestly, as I put pen to paper in our current early stages of pandemic here in Somerset…where do I start?
Many are using the analogy of ‘It’s a marathon not a sprint’. But that is utterly unachievable (yes even for all you Lycra clad ultra-runners / triathletes). Shahina Braganza ED consultant and a twitter friend from the Gold Coast in Australia used a better phrase describing it like a relay, you have to be able to pass the baton over. So, how about we think about maintaining our wellbeing by combining the two – a marathon relay.
We can then think about wellbeing at work during a shift alongside the wellbeing between shifts and on days off. I use the analogy of a battery on your phone. We drain and recharge at work and home. We are often much more diligent at plugging in our phones to recharge than addressing our own energy levels!
Wellbeing at work
So much has been written about this and there are some excellent resources specific to this time (see further reading below). The building blocks are:
· Breaks and sleep if on nights
· Food and fluids
· Psychological safety
· Psychological support
Wellbeing at home
At home we also need to prioritise our own wellbeing more than ever. As an athlete prepares for a marathon, so must we. The best place to start is by prioritising our usual strategies. Clearly some of these may not be available to us, due to the need for physical distancing. However, the fundamental one is – sleep. Talking about how important sleep is and knowing the strategies we should be doing to improve, it is not enough. We need to ensure we try and prioritise it. I appreciate with shifts this is very challenging but there are things that can help. See below for some useful links.
Perhaps a new area of concern for me, is needing to get some perspective and proportion to the constant news feed via social media. In a world of 24-hour news, social media, text and what’s app groups everyone has an opinion or something to say. I have applied some pretty strict ground rules to myself to help keep a sense of proportion. When home just hearing or reading the word corona virus can be very triggering. So mute notifications, set a time for looking at news and a time for deliberately switching off. If feeling anxious then book a ‘worry slot’ in the day. Allow yourself to worry in that time but then avoid and try not to at other times.
Out of all of this, has also come the best of human nature. We in the NHS, are currently in the spotlight as never before. It is very humbling to read and hear about the amazing support we have. Random acts of kindness from those in our communities truly helps. But we also have the capacity for some kindness and generosity back. Yes, we are busy and stretched but a way of reviewing our often distorted sense of things can be to phone an elderly neighbour or help in more practical ways. Acts of kindness benefit not only the receiver but also the giver. Write a thank you card to a few people who you work with, make the tea, wash the cups up. We know from the civility saves lives campaign, that how we behave at work has a direct effect on performance, decision making and sense of wellbeing. Under pressure we all become extreme versions of ourselves or can reverse into an opposite dynamic. As teams, we are all under pressure and it can be difficult to recognise. If we
are all frogs in the pond and the pond is gradually warming up, it is only by stepping out that we recognise how warm it has become, as we dip our toe back in.
I am a long term advocate of mindfulness ( yes even I can sit still and quiet for 10-15 minutes). I recognise it is a very alien concept for some, but would recommend you have a go. There are lots of apps, online resources available.
Finally, we are all feeling vulnerable. You as junior doctors are facing uncertainty over so many things. I appreciate there will be a new way of working for all of us. At this time many may not know what that looks like, where they are working and who will even be in their teams. Your leaders and teams will be designing the system we will be working in and everything is happening quickly. Change is the new normal. So, it is absolutely ok not not be ok. Look around. There are so many people to support you. Within your trust: Your supervisors, clinical tutors, pastoral support team in your education faculty. Your colleagues on your wards clinical and non-clinical. Regionally you will have access to professional support and wellbeing teams. Nationally support is available via Practitioner health programme and BMA counselling amongst many others.
Finally, if like me you are lucky enough to be in the south west, you have the fabulous WARD team of peer mentors working alongside you, ready to listen and signpost.
Sending love to you all in the time of corona, together we will get there.
Lead for Junior & Senior Doctor Wellbeing