Six reasons to address trauma

Trauma has always existed in healthcare, COVID-19 simply shone a light on something which had been there all along – this was the sentiment shared by Isobel Arday, Interim Staff Support Lead at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.  

 Addressing trauma in healthcare v.2Global factors including the cost-of-living crisis coupled with pressure at work have continued to impact staff, with many at risk of burnout and compassion fatigue. While the physical and mental health of staff was a priority during the pandemic, Isobel Arday has said it is important this focus is sustained in the longer term.    

The Mind & Body Share and Learn session, Addressing Trauma in Healthcare Settings, set out six reasons why talking about trauma is important:  

To learn from experience – To effectively address trauma in healthcare we need to understand how it happens and to find this out we need to provide a space for staff to talk about their experiences openly. During the session we heard about some of the ways South London and Maudsley NHS FT and King’s College Hospital NHS FT are holding these spaces for staff. Isobel Arday and Martin Parson’s spoke about Emotional Emancipation Circles which are self-help groups for black staff meant to empower staff against the impact of everyday organisational / institutional racism. They also talked about how Schwartz Rounds and the reflective practice can have great benefits for the wellbeing of staff.  

For the best patient care – ‘To love someone you must first love yourself’ -many mental health practitioners agree that to give the best care to someone else you need to make sure that you look after yourself first.  

To reduce stress and prevent burnout – When a culture shift towards becoming a trauma-informed organisation happens, people become better equipped to deal with stress and to manage challenges at work. Talking openly about trauma in healthcare involves talking about coping skills which can help to develop a resilient workforce. Being a trauma-informed organisation also means people are encouraged to speak about incidents as they happen which makes things more manageable and allows time for staff to process situations before becoming overwhelmed.    

To reduce isolation and build a supportive network – When organisations take steps to address trauma, they show staff they are not alone in their experience and there is a wider need for support. It becomes easier to ask for help when you know you are not the only one who needs it. Sharing experiences with colleagues who understand can help staff to process what they are going through and move forward.      

To raise awareness – Addressing trauma in healthcare means raising awareness for what trauma looks like, how it can impact individuals and what can be done to prevent it. Through raising awareness, you can improve the identification of trauma. Staff will be able to better recognise the early warning signs of mental health problems so they can seek help earlier which puts them on the path to recovery sooner. 

To support recruitment and improve experiences at work – Trauma may seem like a subject which employers would want to avoid, but by being open and honest about the experiences of staff, employers can improve recruitment and promote staff retention. Talking about trauma in healthcare demonstrates that employee wellbeing is a top priority. Addressing trauma can help staff to feel safer at work as they know support is available should they need it and the organisation recognises trauma and is committed to tackling it.  

During the session Addressing Trauma in Healthcare Settings, Isobel Arday shared the following quote: 

 “The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it, is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water and expecting not to get wet” - Rachel Naomi Remen.  

Dr Martin Parsons, Principal Clinical Psychologist and Co-Lead for the staff psychology service at King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (NHS FT) explained how trauma transpires and how the Trust works to help staff access support when they need it.  

Isobel and Martin also highlighted some of the ways in which their teams were working to address trauma in healthcare. Examples of this work included A&E pathways which have been set up to help staff who may present to A&E in their uniform when they are in need of care themselves. t Teaching compassionate leadership and showing managers how to support their employees’ wellbeing was also another key practice.  

The next Mind & Body share and learn session will focus on language in obesity care and will be delivered by Dr Daniela Alves, a Specialist Clinical Psychologist at Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT). In the session Daniela will introduce us to internalised weight stigma and outline some of the ways to approach conversations about weight with patients. Daniela has a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology and is a full member of the British Psychological Society division of Clinical Psychology and the Health and Care Professions Council. With fourteen years of clinical practice working with a variety of mental health problems, she has been specialising in clinical work in Obesity care/Bariatric surgery for the past 6 years and works at GSTT Centre for Obesity, delivering specialised psychological support pre and post bariatric surgery. Click here to register.