I have been thinking about “The Wounded Healer” conference that I attended on September 15th and how it made me feel despondent and puzzled.
I came away with more questions than answers and also a huge cloud of pessimism hanging over me. This feeling was not helped by a 90 minute stop on the journey coming home as a body had been found on the line and we waited while the helicopter landed near us etc.. a very sombre experience. That afternoon I had sat next to a gentleman whose wife, a GP, had committed suicide and I had just felt a deep sense of sadness and hopelessness about how isolated and powerless people can get and that in the NHS it is an absolute disgrace that we can’t find a way of supporting those who struggle with the stress, distress and demands of a complex and complicated work environment. I tried tweeting from the event but soon realised that 140 characters was not going to do any of the topics justice and it just felt like was telling people I was there and did not allow me to reflect on what I was hearing.
For a fabulous overview of the day I suggest you read Jonathan Tomlinson’s blog here – as a GP he is best placed to comment on the content and is also erudite and scholarly. https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/resilient-general-practice/
As a nurse and educator I was distressed by the degree of separation developing between colleagues that appears to be developing in health care environments. I have experienced firsthand what it is like to be excluded and eventually exiled from the workplace; it is deeply hurtful and can be very damaging. It seems to me that in a bid to just survive in the workplace people are resorting to very limited approaches and only looking after themselves. The next day after the event in London I was teaching GP receptionists and what a completely different atmosphere. They were motivated and vibrant, aware of the challenges but at the same time pragmatic and hopeful about what they could do to ensure they maintained their wellbeing at work and at home. It struck me that if we continue to separate the professions in health care we will simply exacerbate the stress and distress being experienced by many and increase the suffering of all. If we decided to connect with each other, share stories and break down barriers of professional status and historical hierarchies what a different place it could be. I don’t know if this can happen but I would like to see folk giving it a try… GPs are not on their own they have wonderful colleagues who are skilled and motivated – the trouble is that if they isolate themselves and top trump their suffering over others they will simply widen the divide … it isn’t about who is worse off but about mutually supporting each other to do the best job you can. That means working differently, it might be about sharing struggles and trusting that the people you work with care enough to make sure it is about mutual well being .. We know if we do this then patients will get better care and also if we share this then we will all be better off for sharing our strengths as well as our challenges.
Much of this underpins the business I want to develop and the work I want to do in the future. However I have realised that much of the challenge is about helping health care professionals to connect with each other, trust each other and share the journey – quite how we make that happen I am not sure but I know we have to start soon to stop the rot of exclusion, distress and despair.
Nursing needs to grow up and admit there are issues – at least medicine has developed beyond adolescence – let’s start the conversation and explore possibilities. Here is a link to a book that will be a starting point for me as I explore more of this