In response to the global Coronavirus pandemic, healthcare staff at Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Goole hospitals as well as those who work in the community, are being trained in psychological first aid.
The training was originally designed for big traumas such as war, natural disasters and terrorist attacks, but has been found to be useful during the pandemic. It provides people with the tools to help others feel safe, secure and supported following shock or trauma and help them with their recovery.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr Gail Meadows, explained: “When someone faces a trauma or shock, we never know how they will react. Since the start of the pandemic, normal coping strategies have been taken away from people, such as visiting friends and family for support. Currently, staff are more psychologically and emotionally vulnerable than ever before, so the chances of them becoming traumatised increases.
“Staff who are trained in psychological first aid will be able to identify what is a normal, manageable reaction and when there is concern and to know the steps which need taking to look after someone.”
Those trained are also taught how to pick up on signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), burnout and unhealthy coping strategies. They are taught not to put pressure on their colleagues or make them relive their experiences, but how to start conversations to begin to understand any help they may need.”
The training encourages staff to speak to their colleagues, checking in with them to make sure they’re looking after themselves. It explains the first month after a triggering event is important – that’s when they will see a natural recovery or problems beginning to appear. They are taught to look out for changes in personality or absences from the staff.
Gail added: “Trauma happens when we feel overwhelmed and do not have the resources to cope with what has happened, or our minds cannot understand what has happened. Sometimes, it is not one big event that causes trauma for staff – lots of ‘micro traumas’ such as a change of work pattern or something going wrong at work or home can build up without the staff member or those around them realising. Then you can have one triggering event which overwhelms people and all these micro-traumas add up to the experience of trauma.”
So far, more than 70 staff have completed the training and this number is increasing as training sessions continue throughout the year. The list of psychological first aiders includes ward-based and community staff, people in admin roles and senior managers – it is available to all roles and levels.
Health and wellbeing training is also being offered to managers across the organisation to aid them with supporting their teams and have meaningful conversations. More than 100 managers have been trained in partnership with Remploy, which works with the Trust to keep staff well at work or return to work.
These training programmes are an example of the support Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust has put in place for staff since the beginning of the pandemic. Additional ways staff are supported includes a 24/7 wellbeing helpline, psychological support webinars, Cognitive Behavioural (CBT) workbooks, personalised support from Remploy, mindfulness sessions and psychological support for teams following a trauma.