caring for staff to prevent trauma

In my long career in the NHS I was witness to many colleagues not being adequately cared for. This is something totally invisible to those using the service and sadly not perceived as important by managers or peers. However, whatever the situation when there is a lack of compassion and empathy towards employees this has huge implications on the care received by those using the service .

When staff are nurtured holistically by management and peers they feel loved, appreciated, good about themselves, what they do, want to give their best selves and they enjoy going into work – all these positives contribute to a quality service. Although controversial to say the ones more likely to comply with the culture of a place are the ones who are promoted – leaving misfits/innovators /rebels who challenge poor systems and cultures feeling unappreciated, isolated and less able to speak up- this can cause a downward spiral of helplessness , mental health issues ,poor job satisfaction and a lack of retainment .

An NHS maternity care service has a tendency to look outwards seeking approval and praise when in fact it should be looking inwards to those who work there .

The most common themes leading to staff trauma and burnout are inadequate staffing , poor shift management , lack of professional support following tragic incidents, bullying behaviours, a blame culture and an expectation that all staff must fit the same mold.

All employee care should ideally be based around Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as the service users and people employed there are in fact one and the same. Differentiating staff from the people at the heart of the care is in fact an inability to recognise that being human is what connects us .

When midwives are presented with an emotionally safe environment they will be their true selves and the security of this will facilitate compassionate care to the people they care for. Its a two way process – be kind to staff and the staff will feel cherished and so be kind to the woman .

Kindness to all within the service (users of the service and employees) will bring a consistently positive day to day experience and improve safety .

‘Not all disabilities are visible’ is a sign regularly seen on toilets for those living with a disability – so my question is this ‘if the NHS embraced more midwives who live with a disability then the cascade effect of this would be that women and families who live with a disability/disabilities would see this and be more likely to choose such a unit to be guided through their pregnancy.

If we also look at ensuring that a maternity workforce is diverse in ethnicity this might go some way towards addressing the horrendous imbalance in care . Evidence has highlighted the fact that black women are four times more likely to die and we need to know why. According to the MBRRACE UK, 2020 report (a report that looks into maternal deaths), Black women in the UK have a four fold higher risk of dying in pregnancy in comparison to a white woman.

Hunter B, Henley J, Fenwick J et al (2018). Work, Health and Emotional Lives of Midwives in the United Kingdom: The UK WHELM study. School of healthcare Sciences, Cardiff University

Bullying exists within maternity services and addressing this issue is a complex one – not many bullies leave sadly the victims of the bullies leave which in fact gives a strong message to the bullies “carry on bullying “

To summarise take a good look at the workforce you are in. How is the culture ? Are there groups that seem to exclude others or are there no sub cultures? Does everyone follow the philosophy of the unit ? Is the workforce a good reflection of the people it cares for or are those people underrepresented?

Thank you for reading

Sending love and kindness


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