Background Working in palliative medicine requires emotional resilience and is associated with compassion fatigue and burnout. However, research into support strategies for palliative care teams is lacking. Schwartz rounds improve caregiver psychological wellbeing but are limited by implementation costs. This project aimed to: ascertain staff satisfaction with their counselling service; measure wellbeing; and pilot an emotional support forum.
Methods This study was conducted in a specialist palliative care unit with 20 inpatient beds and day therapy unit. Discussions were held with the counselling, medical and nursing staff to develop the support service. A survey was distributed to MDT members, giving 24 anonymous responses. Subsequently, a monthly emotional support forum was piloted, facilitated by a ward nurse and supported by the counsellors and ward manager. A follow-up survey was distributed 16 months later with 32 respondents.
Results The initial survey identified staff may benefit from emotional support, with over 50% experiencing disturbed sleep, intrusive thoughts and feeling sad or depressed at some point over the past month. Preferred options were mindfulness sessions and an emotional support forum. Over 70% of respondents to the second survey attended the forum at some point. Of those, 85% felt it an inclusive and safe environment and 74% found it helpful. 48% could not attend as often as hoped, predominantly due to time constraints and staffing. There were no significant differences between measures of anxiety and depression before and after forum introduction.
Conclusions Staff were more aware of the counselling service to support patients/relatives than themselves, but many engaged with the forum and found it helpful. Areas for improvement include increasing awareness and facilitating forum attendance. This study was not designed to detect objective changes in anxiety/depression, however, our qualitative findings support the forum as a low cost and convenient approach to improving staff wellbeing.
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