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Coping as a health service during COVID-19

Dr. Mary Docherty talks about health services learning from this experience and being able to grow and develop after the trauma of COVID-19
So what should hospitals do going forward? Well, from where I see it, I think we’re actually had a bit of a crossroads. People talk about this notion of post traumatic growth. This idea, this observation, that out of incredibly difficult times after something traumatic positive transformational change, can happen. And I really believe that that’s something that we should aspire to as health care workers, as healthcare organisations, and as a healthcare system, if not as a nation. But the challenge that lies ahead is that the ability for growth is entirely determined, round our ability to learn, and our ability to learn will be entirely determined around the culture that grows up around that.
Something that has been concerning me is that as very difficult feelings are starting to arise, anger, fear, distress, losts, these feelings are very difficult to tolerate and there is a desire to get rid of them to put them elsewhere, and I think this is what’s happening as we start to blame we start to locate the source of those feelings into other people and once we moved to that sort of blame culture it becomes completely impossible to learn the conditions that we need to move to a period of growth out of trauma, squashed, removed and I think this is where real leadership will hopefully set the pace and tone and perhaps determine what we’re able to do with what’s happened to us with all of these different experiences.
Because the requirement for leaders is to set that culture, is to create the quality and the openness of the dialogue that enables us to look at what’s happened, to be able to talk about it, to feel comfortable, to be able to share. To voice where we think we haven’t done things well and where we would like to do things differently next time. And that’s my hope. My hope is that we have the leadership within our organisations.
My hope is that factors that determine our leaders ability to talk to set that sort of culture, for example the press, that they step up also and recognise the deep responsibility they have currently to influence what we do next, how we go forward, how we respond to what has happened and turn it from something horrifying and traumatic into something that potentially changes the history of health  system and also health service for the better.

Mary covered many key considerations in how health services, and other systems, can meet the psychological needs from COVID-19. We have discussed some of these throughout the course, such as managing difficult emotions in groups or at work. We would like to briefly address some newer concepts that Mary raised.

Post-traumatic growth

Post-traumatic growth refers to positive psychological changes following a period of intensely challenging experiences. As we’ve established many people, groups and organisations will have had these difficult experiences during COVID-19.

These positive changes can include improved relationships (we touched on solidarity last week), an improved self-view and awareness of strengths, and an improved perspective or outlook on life.

Research points to time and realistic optimism as key factors in allowing post-traumatic growth. We will explore this concept more in Week 3.

Pause for thought

Does this concept sound relatable? Have you or people you know come through challenging times and felt stronger afterwards?

Mary also touched on some of the key factors for developing as an organisation to meet these challenges. Learning in real-time as we respond to the psychological impact of COVID-19 on organisations is critical.

  • Leadership can ‘set the tone’ for learning as we face challenges.
  • This can be achieved through open and transparent dialogue to engage staff and those accessing services.
  • These activities contribute to organisational culture which drives behaviours and attitudes, particularly in challenging times.
  • Communicating clearly during these processes is critical, including the role of the wider media, government, and external organisations.
These are some of the factors that can facilitate or hinder an organisation from meeting the challenges faced by it’s workforce during COVID-19. Are there other factors that you feel are important? Join the discussion below.
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COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

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