Morgan Lucey , National Lead for the HSE Employee Assistance Program on what the Health Services are doing to support the needs of Health Care Workers During COVID-19.
The community-wide support and appreciation for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis has really made a difference.
Every day, as my HSE colleagues go to work, we are heartened by the overwhelming public support and the individual acts of kindness shown to us. With more than 100,000 staff the HSE is the largest employer in the country. It is no exaggeration to say that every family in the country has a sister, a brother, a mother, a father, a daughter or son or other relation working in the HSE. It’s one of the reasons people care so much for the work we do.
Many of us are concerned about the health and well-being of our frontline HSE staff during this pandemic. Their daily dedication puts many of them at the coal face of Covid-19. In some instances they too may become COVID-positive. Our frontline staff are doing heroic work but do not wish for any accolades or tributes. There are also many other HSE workers who support frontline staff, without whom critical services could not function; they are the cleaning staff, the catering staff, the porters, and many other support staff. They too demonstrate strength and leadership in showing up to work day-in-day-out in what can be a very challenging work environment. The stress all our staff are working under can take its toll.
Exposure to Risks
Our HSE employees can be routinely exposed to events that workers in the general population would not encounter. Examples of this include incidents such as patient loss of life, traumatic incidents and of course increased exposure to COVID-19. These kinds of issues can potentially expose staff to psychosocial risks. Given that COVID-19 could have a long term impact on society, the HSE has formed a Health Sector Psychosocial Response project team with the remit of developing a long term approach to psychosocial structures and responses for both the public and all health sector workers including specific support services for HSE staff. This has facilitated HSE services to combine and quickly scale up to deliver brief, practical psychosocial support for staff.
As part of this initiative the The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP ) service are delivering staff psychosocial responses in partnership with colleagues from Psychology, mental health services, the National Counselling Service and other HSE services. All of us involved in protecting the psychological wellbeing, and health and safety of our HSE colleagues have been working long hours, day and night. I’ve never been prouder of the collective work we do than during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP ) includes specialist work-centred counselling and therapy services that are provided to respond to healthcare workers for whom current challenges, whether COVID-specific challenges posed by work and/or personal life impact on their health and wellbeing. The EAP service is available for all HSE staff groups throughout the current period and will continue as we return to providing non-Covid services. Supports include Counselling; Consultation to managers on staff wellbeing and psychosocial issues; Critical Incident Stress Management (C.I.S.M. ) Response; and training and psycho-educative inputs on staff wellbeing issues.
We also know that every member of the community is helping in this battle. The HSE has recently launched its #HoldFirm campaign. One of the key campaign messages is that healthcare workers need everyone to continue to abide by the current guidelines restrictions. We know how tough these are on families, friends and communities across the country. However, its vital in our efforts to combat COVID-19.
Making Real-World Steady Progress
There are enormous challenges of course and we won’t get everything right straight away. Just as in the fight against COVID, it is not about immediate perfect solutions but rather making real-world steady progress, in a ways that make a difference to staff wellbeing. We know that our work is protecting our frontline workers mental health, day in, day out. It is important to remember that like most people, most healthcare workers are resilient. During COVID-19 they may experience adversity, stress and perhaps even traumas. They may falter, but typically they persevere and move through the challenge and come out the other side. How we cope with adversity and challenge in our working lives is what really matters. Coping is an integral component of resilience and the staff supports provided to our workers can help foster the development of both individual and team resilience.
We’re very conscious of the potential stressors and mental wellbeing effects that working to combat Covid-19 presents. We’ve new and existing resources and guidance designed to protect mental wellbeing, identify fatigue and combat stress.
Every death due to COVID-19 is a sad occurrence. We’ve had to acknowledge the impact that dealing with increased rates of death in our hospitals has on HSE workers. Many of these patients have formed a special relationship with our staff. Some of the death toll has also included the death in service of some of our healthcare colleagues. Such an event will have a significant impact on their immediate colleagues and the wider healthcare workforce. We’ve supported staff on some of their toughest days facing the harsh lethal realities of of this virus.
Let there be no doubt, COVID-19 continues to present an enormous threat to our community. We see the reality of the virus in our hospitals every day. We are doing everything we can to protect staff battling this virus.
Everyday the HSE Employee Assistance Programme team and the staff of the Workplace Health and Wellbeing Unit do everything we can to support our healthcare staff. You can too. Please, support your healthcare workers, follow the advice, stay home where possible.
Stand with us and #HoldFirm.