Discover the importance of workplace wellbeing and explore five online courses suited to healthcare workers in this article written in collaboration with the We Are The NHS campaign.
Wherever you’re working, it’s essential to look after your mental and physical health to avoid burnout. If you’re working for the NHS, no two days are the same and you face unique combinations of challenges every day, so it’s super important to monitor and work on your own wellbeing at work.
That’s why we’re collaborating with the We Are The NHS campaign to provide information and resources about how you can maintain your wellbeing. Taking care of your own health builds solid foundations to take care of your patients too.
Kate Ward, an Allied Health Professions Workforce Lead and occupational therapist in the NHS from Leeds, says, “Regardless of job role, whether you’re a front-line health professional or working one of the other many essential roles our NHS has – our wellbeing is the most important thing when it comes to doing our jobs”.
What is workplace wellbeing?
Workplace wellbeing is an important component of job satisfaction. Let’s look at the term and how it might apply to the NHS team.
The NHS has identified worker wellbeing as a crucial predictor of success. In 2018, the organisation unveiled the NHS Health and Wellbeing Framework. The document, updated regularly, deals with personal health and wellbeing, relationships, fulfilment at work, and the environment, as well as drawing on data insights.
“Wellbeing” refers to our welfare, happiness and a general sense of purpose. In most cases, it’s something we feel – and so, it’s subjective. If you feel happy in your job, then your workplace wellbeing is high. Our article on job satisfaction details how you can begin to understand this important part of your work environment.
It’s useful to think of wellbeing as a combination of job satisfaction, good health and safety practices, diet, stress management, and your social life. In many cases, the term is used as shorthand for more intangible mental health concerns.
Healing and helping the sick can make for a purposeful and rewarding career. Your work will help the wider community to feel safe and well looked after, and you’ll have a positive impact on the lives of many in your care. Even in a non-patient-facing role, the benefit of supporting nurses, doctors and the wider NHS service is a crucial part of delivering an essential service to the public.
Tips for maintaining workplace wellbeing
NHS team members can benefit from a proactive approach to ensure workplace wellbeing is at its best. Mental health and wellbeing support is provided by the NHS for the workforce, and it’s also worth finding a personal approach to wellbeing that’s right for you and your circumstances.
For example, NHS occupational therapist, Kate Ward, told us: “Just this week, I took time to head out to the Yorkshire Dales on my time off and climb the Yorkshire peaks. It felt like a recharge and I made sure I did not look at any work-related emails whilst I was there! It’s not just about physically not being at work, but we need to take ourselves out of the headspace of work too in order to truly appreciate that time off.”
On the job, coping with stress becomes easier if you can form a supportive team with your colleagues. Read our article on ten ways to support your team at work to learn more.
Why is the wellbeing and mental health of our NHS staff important?
In a healthcare context, providing support for mental health and workplace wellbeing is essential. Both patient and workforce wellbeing contribute to a well-functioning NHS. Below, we’ll take a look at the reasons why it’s important to protect patients and employees within the NHS.
Protecting NHS staff from burnout
According to a 2021 survey, 46.8% of NHS staff report work-related stress. This shows that, while working in healthcare is rewarding, there are undeniably times where work may be challenging. A career in the NHS is not for everyone – although if you enjoy helping people and you’re the right match for one of more than 350 different jobs in the NHS, then a healthcare career can be tremendously rewarding.
When dealing with work-related stress, there’s lots of support already available. For immediate support, or if you’d like to be able to provide that support to your colleagues, then our blog on psychological first aid might be a great place to get started.
Our blog detailing the impact of trauma on mental health will help you learn to manage trauma and cope better, too.
Dealing with sleep deprivation
You might also find yourself working shifts that fall outside of the usual 9-5. Changes in your body clock and sleeping patterns can correlate closely with chronic sleep deprivation, which can lead to an increased likelihood of heart attacks, cancer, dementia, and anxiety.
This is a popular topic of discussion in the modern age. So much so that it has a special name: Shift Work Disorder. If you think you might be suffering from anxiety, read our blog on what it is and how to deal with it.
As well as being harmful if sustained over a long period of time, a lack of sleep tends to reduce your ability to concentrate, focus, and work at peak performance. If you’re struggling with chronic sleep deprivation, or are keen to look at ways to keep on top of your sleeping patterns, then this course from the University of Michigan might be helpful.
So keeping staff healthy and fulfilled is essential, especially in a healthcare setting. Taking steps to improve your own workplace wellbeing and keep on top of workload and burnout is crucial to finding fulfilment in your job. Skilled medical workers are the backbone of healthcare and so staff retention matters hugely to the NHS. As such, so does the wellbeing and mental health of all NHS employees.
Five online wellbeing courses for NHS employees
If you’re looking to increase your workplace wellbeing, support the wellbeing of your staff, or are just interested in learning more, we’ve picked out five FutureLearn courses that might be beneficial to NHS workers.
Taking courses alone isn’t enough, however. It’s also important to seek support from your manager and team. For example, Kate has regular management supervision to discuss her workload and regular clinical supervision to develop her practice and reflect on complex or challenging issues. Her team also has monthly reflective forums. These help the team to connect, build relationships, and navigate any complexities of the job together.
1. Self Care and Wellbeing: A Practical Guide for Health and Social Care by the University of Edinburgh
This 3-week course from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is aimed at benefiting students and staff in health and social care settings. The course is mainly composed of daily meditative practices and diary-keeping. Getting into the habit of doing these mindful exercises can be very beneficial for your wellbeing.
If you’d like a taste of the course, check out some of the free open steps. In the course’s video introduction to mindfulness and cognitive sub-systems, Dr Kitty Wheater takes you through the two modes of mind: the antsy, fight-or-flight mode, and the ‘being’ mode of rest and relaxation. The guided TSM (Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness) ‘Hand and Fist’ practice involves using a closed fist and an open hand to self-diagnose nervous system dysregulation.
Whether you’re a student training for a job in healthcare or a current NHS staff member, the practical tips and strategies in this course will help you to create a routine where you can cope with workplace stress and challenges.
2. Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance by Monash University
Mindfulness is widely perceived as an antidote to our modern work-related stress. It’s a way of paying attention to the present moment, and to the sensations and experiences that arise in consciousness. When you learn to recognise exactly what’s going on in your mind, you’ll have a powerful defence against stress and other challenges.
There are few better introductions to the practice than this course from Monash University in Australia. You don’t need any previous experience in mindfulness practice to benefit from the course. Check out the introduction to the course or an exercise based around eating a dried blueberry that will help you learn about mindful eating.
Throughout the course, you’ll get to experiment with a range of mindfulness techniques, so that you can ultimately apply the ones that work well for you. No matter what your job title is in the NHS, taking some time for mindfulness will encourage you to slow down, be present, and breathe.
3. Nutrition and Wellbeing by the University of Aberdeen
If you’re not eating and drinking properly, you’re unlikely to get the best from your time working for the NHS. If your diet is poor, you might be astonished at the difference switching to a healthy diet can make.
A good, healthy diet can be a tricky thing to pin down. We all know that we’re supposed to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and that deep-fried foods are bad for us. But nutrition is vastly more complicated than that – and it can often be helpful to understand the principles of healthy eating.
This course from the University of Aberdeen provides an overview of nutrition and is therefore a great place to start.
Since the benefits of good nutrition on mental health can’t be underestimated, we’ve suggested a few more courses that NHS staff might find useful below:
- Food for Thought: the Relationship Between Food, Gut and Brain by the University of Turin
- Healthy Cooking Made Easy with BBC Good Food
- Food and Mood: Improving Mental Health Through Diet and Nutrition by Deakin University
4. Managing Mental Health and Stress by Coventry University
If you’d like a fuller understanding of workplace stress and how it relates to mental health, then this course from Coventry University is sure to appeal. It was devised during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a lot of the advice it offers applies to life in general.
If you feel that your mental health has suffered as a result of your work, then this course might provide you with the tools you need to improve your sense of wellbeing.
You’ll learn about mental health and discover several theories and models of how stress works, in addition to how you can handle it. The lessons you’ll learn here are not only applicable to your career in the NHS, but to your life outside of work too.
5. Workplace Wellbeing: How to Build Confidence and Manage Stress by Lulea University of Technology
Are you lacking confidence at work, or struggling to deal with stress in your job? These are common challenges, but that doesn’t make them any less difficult. Overcoming them can improve your work life immeasurably.
That’s what this course, from the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden, is for. It offers a practical angle to wellbeing at work, with handy tips and advice that you can implement immediately.
Check out the summary of the first week: an overview of stress that invites you to reflect on how you handle it in day-to-day life. There’s also a guide to how to prioritise at work, which will help you to manage your workload.
Start your NHS wellbeing journey today
We’ve just scratched the surface of the support and wellbeing resources available on FutureLearn. Whether you’re looking to work on your own wellbeing at work, or you’d like to be proactive in protecting your mental health during periods of stress, there’s a course that’s right for you.
NHS team members are fundamental to the delivery of world-class public health and are highly appreciated, so it’s important that we take care of them in the same way that they look after us.
For more information on careers in the NHS, search NHS Careers.