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PFA in the workplace

Learn about using PFA in the workplace for supporting your colleagues or team. This section is optional.

The rest of this module is specifically designed for anyone who would like to use PFA to support their work colleagues or team. This section is optional and you can skip to the end of the course if you do not want to learn about PFA for supporting colleagues.

Impact of chronic stress

We are often very dedicated to our work. However, we can also become too engaged which can contribute towards feeling stressed, for example due to fatigue. Therefore it is of extra importance to look after ourselves.


There are a number of different stressors that can influence your mental wellbeing. The below stressors are particularly relevant if you are supporting someone as part of your professional role or at work.

Occupational stressors

  • Perceived job control
  • Career development
  • Workplace climate or culture
  • Job and workload
  • Home-work balance
  • Role clarity
  • Relationships with work colleagues
  • Stressors related to emergencies
  • Exposure to events
  • Exposure to on-site dangers e.g. risk of infection
  • Exposure to affected people’s suffering and stories
  • Feelings of powerlessness

Other stressors

  • Lack of skills or training
  • Lack of materials
  • Poor role definitions and unclear expectations
  • Poor organisation of work
  • Lack of support
  • Unnecessary policies and practices
  • Unnecessarily poor conditions
  • Poor scheduling – long hours, few breaks
  • Lack of opportunities for recreation

Moral Injury

Moral injury is a concept first used in the military. It is the psychological distress that results from actions, or the lack of them, which violate someone’s moral or ethical code.

Moral injury can occur if you are supporting a person in distressing situations and where demand outstrips resources.

Those suffering from moral injury may feel guilt, shame and/or disgust towards themselves. This may lead to mental illness, or working through these difficulties can lead to growth and development. Support can help people deal positively with moral injury.

Danger of burnout

Staff in caring, response, and essential services are dedicated to their work. They will often work long hours when responding to an incident. This can lead to fatigue and burnout.

Taking regular breaks and allocated annual leave are important for maintaining resilience, especially in a prolonged situation like the pandemic.

It is also important to make use of supervision to help process and learn from difficult situations.

A change in the way someone acts can be a sign of stress, for example they may:

  • Take more time off
  • Arrive for work later
  • Be more twitchy or nervous
  • Use unhealthy coping mechanisms, e.g. substance abuse or eating more than they would usually

A change in the way someone thinks or feels can also be a sign of stress, for example:

  • Mood swings
  • Being withdrawn
  • Loss of motivation, commitment and confidence
  • Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive

Burnout is not a medical condition but often leads to one. It results from chronic workplace stress which has not been successfully managed. Look out for three things:

  • Feelings of depletion or exhaustion
  • Mentally distancing from work with feelings of cynicism about the job
  • Reduced professional effectiveness

Taking regular breaks and allocated annual leave and sick leave when unwell are important for preventing stress and maintaining resilience. Furthermore, we work best when we build positive relationships at work because this helps everyone feel less stressed.

It is also important to make use of supervision to help process and learn from difficult situations.

© UK Health Security Agency
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Psychological First Aid

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