Having been on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic, many health workers are still dealing with the effects of ongoing mental and emotional stress.
To manage these high levels of burnout, hospitals are searching for ways to strengthen their people’s emotional wellbeing. For Mediclinic Newcastle, Free To Grow’s Staying Strong programme showed great potential to meet this need.
“We are thrilled about the vaccine, but what is being done for healthcare workers who underwent severe trauma due to the death of their patients? This is where Staying Strong comes in: a powerful ‘emotional vaccine’ that provides staff with tools to be resilient and strong,”
says Japie Greyling, Hospital General Manager at Mediclinic Newcastle.
A year into using the Staying Strong Toolkit, Japie shares how the hospital continues to reap the benefits.
“We see daily benefits of this wonderful programme. People have grown stronger in mind, body and soul. There is a different vibe in the hospital, staff are more optimistic and resilient when you speak to them. This is the best 15-week workout we have ever been on and Staying Strong has become an essential weapon in our staff arsenal.”
A DIY approach
The Staying Strong video-based Toolkit provides 15 bite-sized modules focusing on different aspects of emotional and mental wellbeing. The messages are shared with teams in weekly 10-minute leader-led sessions, spanning four months. Every session creates a wellbeing touchpoint that grows coping skills and connects people more deeply with their leaders and colleagues.
Colleen Schoeman, HR Manager at the hospital sees the content of the toolkit as key.
“This is where the magic lies,” she says, describing Staying Strong as a “life-giving gift to employees.”
She explains that the practical and relatable nature of the material immediately resonated with the Newcastle team. The simple, yet powerful messages cut across employee levels, creating a common language regarding wellbeing in the hospital.
Implementing a programme of this kind is not without its challenges, particularly in a hospital setting where employees and managers are primarily focused on patient care and time for team meetings is a luxury. Mediclinic Newcastle and Free To Grow, therefore, adapted the tools and implementation process to meet the hospital’s unique needs.
Reflecting back, Colleen smiles when she recalls how some already-overburdened leaders ‘moaned and groaned’ at the expectation of having to to lead these conversations, using a simple step-by-step Leaders guide.
“These same leaders now tell me how they enjoy facilitating the conversations and how much value their teams derive from it. They are delighted by the results they are getting and I’m impressed to see how committed some leaders are to the process. One, for example, made a little gadget for each team member to remind them of the key message in one of the conversations and another was willing to drive 30 kilometers to work while on leave to ensure her team did not miss their weekly session."
Mariaan Olivier, Unit Manager of the General Ward and 35 nurses, is another example of a leader who is embracing Staying Strong and making it her own. Mariaan creates posters, props and displays to reinforce the key messages from the videos to keep them on top of mind.
“This excellent programme makes it possible for me to motivate my team. My effort might not change the current situation for all my team members, but even if it just gives one person the tools to conquer a hectic day – then it’s worth it.”
Japie and Colleen are leading by example by using the Toolkit themselves. Colleen reports that the Staying Strong conversations with her team create a deeper awareness of the challenges facing individual team members, allowing them to support each other more. Japie agrees:
“I get much from these conversations. I have the honour of sharing it with my Personal Assistant and Patient Experience Manager. We have good conversations and share meaningfully (lekker). FANTASTIC! Love it, puts a spring (huppel) in my step for the week.”
Japie explains that an important decision was who to use as facilitators of the toolkit conversations and sees this as key to the success of the roll out. “We even have some of our cleaning staff acting as facilitators to their peers.”
Mediclinic Newcastle is experiencing the benefits they hoped for, with staff responding positively to the programme. Colleen is hearing more and more people using the Staying Strong talk in the corridors.
“People are clearly taking it to heart and remembering the messages. It is definitely working and having the impact we desire."