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Launch of Self-Care Matters

PCA launched this new online self-care resource: Self-Care Matters during National Palliative Care Week 2020.

The resource has been authored and produced by well-respected self-care expert Dr Jason Mills, a nurse academic with a clinical background in palliative care and mental health. 

Self-care is caring for everybody. As a health professional, having a self-care plan can help you take time for yourself and the people you care about. This has a flow-on effect that allows you to take better care of your patients.  

Building a self-care plan can seem complicated. Dr Jason Mills has developed the Self-Care Matters resource, a first of its kind self-care toolkit specially designed for self-care practice in the palliative care sector, which can help you build your own self-care plan.  

Dr Mills and palliative care nurse practitioner and PCA clinical advisor Kate Reed-Cox demonstrate here how to create an effective self-care plan and answer some questions received via the webinar.

While not all questions could be answered on the day, PCA has now provided detailed responses to Frequently Asked Questions during the webinar (see below video). 

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: How can we create a culture of self-care within a work team and with management?

ANSWER:  Self-Care Matters targets self-care, workforce wellbeing and resilience at an individual level. This is an important first step, because self-care begins with you. However, supportive organisational environments and team cultures that are conducive to building and promoting self-care are also critical. This is reflected in Standard 9 of the National Palliative Care Standards which calls on employers in palliative care to support staff and volunteers in their roles.

At the individual level, you might wish to list “self-care” on your annual performance plan and on your team meetings agenda to talk to your managers and colleagues about your own, and their, self-care. One option that might help to start the discussion in your teams, is to let your colleagues know about Self-Care Matters and the value it gives you in your work and personal roles.

Question 2: Can you comment on the role of clinical supervision as a very important intervention to arm ourselves from vicarious trauma?

ANSWER:  Some people find clinical supervision to be very helpful. In the context of vicarious trauma, people may find clinical supervision especially beneficial because it represents a guided form of reflective practice that can enhance self-awareness and support self-care.

The following article and video may be of interest also:

Question 3: Do you have specific ideas, tips or self-care strategies to assist with the management of, or resilience against, moral burnout?

ANSWER:  It is important that burnout be prevented wherever possible. Ongoing reflection on your personal values, and how these relate to clinical practices and/or interactions occurring in relation to professional roles, may be helpful. Clarity about whether your personal values can help with discerning how best to address any issues that arise. It can also help to be clear about what things are within your control, and other circumstances that you cannot control.

However, it’s important to appreciate that for self-care to be effective, there is no prescriptive approach and self-care strategies are best personalised to the individual context and practice/clinical setting. It is also important to be aware of distinctions between burnout and moral distress, or ‘moral injury’ as discussed in the articles below.

Question 4: How can we ensure we effectively manage self-care during COVID restrictions?

ANSWER:  The COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions serve as a reminder to all of us of the importance of holistic self-care, and to put it into practice as much as possible even in the context of constraints we may encounter. Self-care is not a ‘one size fits all’, so what may be an effective approach for one person may be different for another. The tool itself doesn’t require any face-to-face consultation with another person, it is about you. Recognising that the heightened stressors that the pandemic has placed on healthcare workers and how this affects you, and what you can do to care for yourself at this time is essential for your wellbeing. However, a number of free COVID-specific self-care tip sheets have been developed such as those below:

Question 5: How do you negotiate close family & friends in need of your skillset, particularly where a loved one is in the final stages of life?

ANSWER:  Communicating with family and close friends, especially in this type of scenario, can be emotionally demanding. It may help to be mindful of your own emotional state before, during and after these interactions. Also providing boundaries early on is important to ensure you aren’t pushed outside of your professional or personal comfort level. Monitoring this, and regulating breath and posture (such as through the guided meditations on Self-Care Matters) can help to maintain calmness and support compassionate communication during interactions. Some people find debriefing or journaling to be helpful also. 

Question 6: I would like to share the Self-Care Matters resources with a close friend or relative, outside the palliative care sector; how can I do it? Where can I find out about any additions to Self-Care Matters.

ANSWER:  The Self-Care Matters resource is available to everyone for free, not only those working and caring in the palliative care sector. The resource includes a downloadable Self-Care Matters Planning Tool, which can assist all of us to “practise in” our own self-care. 

Any additions to these resources will be promoted through Palliative Care e-News. You can subscribe to e-News here.

Question 7: Is self-care something we should all be introduced to at a young age, such as when we are in school, so that it becomes a life-skill to build-upon as we grow, including as we enter the workforce?

ANSWER:  The field of Positive Education is concerned with achieving this very thing! Within this model, teaching and promoting wellbeing is integrated alongside academic learning and success. As with the idea of providing death education in schools (which integrates discussion about ageing and dying to demystify this for young people), Positive Education has the potential to promote self-care at a younger age, particularly through learning about self-compassion.

The following article may of interest:

Question 8: From the research, is it clear how a person’s self-care practice (or lack thereof) affects that person’s decision-making and ability to deliver safe, effective quality end-of-life care? What are workplaces doing to support/promote and/or encourage self-care and the person’s ability to consistently “check in” with themselves.

ANSWER: There is a growing body of research evidence in relation to the links between quality and safety in care provision, and the healthcare professional’s own self-care and wellbeing; or lack thereof. The COVID-19 Pandemic is raising awareness of these implications for workforce wellbeing and resilience, and these may be reflected more explicitly in future workforce strategies.

Question 9: I am having some personal and professional involvement with family and friends with dementia – do you have any hints on self-care in that particularly challenging emotional situation?

ANSWER:  Personal and professional involvement with family and friends can be emotionally demanding, especially in contexts of declining cognitive function such as dementia. It can be helpful to be mindful of your own emotional state before, during, and after interactions. Monitoring this and regulating breath and posture can help to maintain calmness and support compassionate communication during interactions. Some people also find debriefing or journaling to be helpful.

Question 10: Do you believe all palliative care teams should have access to structured clinical supervision on a regular basis? (Apart from an Employee Assistance Program (EAP))

ANSWER:  Some people find clinical supervision to be very helpful. It is very different to ‘EAP’, and represents a guided form of reflective practice that can: enhance self-awareness; support self-care; and enhance quality care for patients. On that basis, access to regular structured clinical supervision could be beneficial.

The following article and clip may be of interest:

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