Care and compassion is needed
Now more than ever I think we need to not only extend more care and compassion to health workers and social service workers in our communities but also support these workers to direct care, empathy, and compassion towards themselves. This compassionate self-awareness can, with support, give rise to the balance and positive self-care that is needed for personal wellbeing and healthy work practice.
The Covid Pandemic has impacted everyone’s wellbeing
Since March last year the impacts of Covid have not only increased the mental health challenges for people who were already experiencing vulnerability and accessing community services, but also the people who have been providing that care for them, our professional carers. Professional carers have had to extend themselves even further and it has taken a toll. The RESET 2020 National Impact+Need Research Study indicated a 32% increase in feelings of stress and anxiety since Covid in the social service sector.
Carers genuinely care for others
People who are in the caring profession have genuine care and compassion for others and will often sacrifice their own wellbeing, for example working extra hours. If it means someone will be more comfortable, in less pain or have what they need to help them through the next 24 hours, it is understandable that a worker may put in extra time to do this. It is however, not sustainable, in the longer term the wellbeing and resilience of workers suffers and ultimately the quality care of clients can be impacted.
Burnt-out Carers will struggle to provide quality care
As a wellbeing specialist, I have seen first-hand the impacts of burnout and fatigue on individual and team wellbeing in a highly reactive environment. If it is not managed well and left to continue, the negative health and wellbeing impacts are significant for individual workers, for team dynamics, the quality of service, and also has the potential to damage the culture of the organisation.
Workplace health and wellness strategies are increasingly being recognised as essential for building and maintaining staff resilience and wellbeing in Australia. This also has a significant business benefit in lowering staff absenteeism, workers compensation claims, and costs related to increased staff turnover (Worksafe, Queensland Government). Clearly, workplace wellness strategies can save money for organisations.
What is needed? Compassionate awareness through supportive clinical supervision or workplace counseling
Providing opportunities for community service workers to have reflective conversations that support compassionate self-awareness, positive debriefing, unpacking the moral/ethical dilemmas, and implementing a practical self-care plan would clearly form a solid basis of support that workers really need.
It makes sense. Let’s give the care and compassion to our community service frontline workers that they deserve. Provide them the workplace support they need, ideally through regular external clinical supervision, to maintain their wellbeing and best practice. In providing this type of wellbeing support, workers will continue to provide quality social services, so needed in our community.
Anna Boyce: Wellbeing Consultant and Clinical Supervisor for the not-for-profit sector www.wellbeingconsultancy.com.au