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Reflective practice during the pandemic

Andrew Cooper writes about how he approached leading reflective practice groups during the pandemic.
© Tavistock & Portman NHS FT
Professor Cooper describes his experience of providing reflective groups during the pandemic:

At the height of the pandemic and afterwards I provided online reflective spaces to workers in hospital and community settings, and their managers. I would open these groups by saying ‘This is a confidential and non-judgemental space for you to slow down, catch up with what’s been happening to you, and share your experiences with one another. You’ve been working under huge emotional pressure, so it’s easy to lose track of yourself, and forget to take notice of what may be distressing you most. There may be particular experiences or anxieties that are troubling you, or keeping you awake at night. This is a forum in which people can just talk about what’s been happening for you.’

Often this kind of opportunity is not available to human service staff under more ‘ordinary’ circumstances, and people may be unfamiliar with the idea of just reflecting on their experiences. But I found that most groups of staff were hungry for a chance just to speak ‘from the heart’. People cried, talked about their anxious dreams, spoke about their fear, guilt and confusion. This seemed to bring them some relief and help them think about their difficult jobs a bit more clearly. The pain of working with so many people dying so rapidly, of being redeployed suddenly and not feeling competent in a new role, and the sense of ‘moral injury’ when staff felt they were obliged to take decisions that they knew were risky for patients – all this and more ‘came to the surface’.

Being listened to by colleagues, finding that others were having the same fears and anxieties, helped relieve the sense of it being a lonely struggle. In an emergency we can all get into an ‘emergency’ state of mind in ourselves. This drives us forward, but at the cost of neglecting our own emotional life and the cost of not attending to it and taking emotional care of ourselves.

In the short video that follows, Sharna reflects on the value in taking time just to ‘be with oneself’ and whatever is going on emotionally.

© Tavistock & Portman NHS FT
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Grief, Loss, and Dying During COVID-19

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