Guests: Special guest co-host Tessa Moriarty, Georgie Southam and Kat Evans
Tags: mental health
Soundcloud: Listen to Episode 32
The mental health of nurses, midwives and students is vitally important. In this episode of the podcast we welcome our first ever co-host Tessa Moriarty and discuss insights and experiences on mental health for working nurses and midwives with Registered Midwife Georgie Southam and Registered Nurse Kat Evans.
We discuss the unique challenges and factors that impact workers in the healthcare industry. Working on the frontline during the ongoing pandemic has led to prolonged levels of unhealthy stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, and post-traumatic stress disorder in our workforce. Our guests share tips and tricks to improve your mental health and access support.
We urge you to remind yourself every day that your health matters as much as the health of those you care for. We hope you know how important your mental health is. If you ever need to chat Nurse & Midwife Support are here for you. Give us a call on 1800 667 877 — free, confidential, 24/7.
Special guest co-host Tessa Moriarty
Tessa Moriarty is a credentialed Mental Health Nurse Consultant with over 30 years experience across public, private and primary health care, mental health and drug and alcohol settings. She has worked in a variety of senior leadership and executive roles and is an experienced group facilitator, clinical supervisor and psychotherapist. Much of Tessa’s work in recent years has focused on supporting those working in clinical settings – providing individual and group clinical supervision and reflective practice. She also works as a mental health nurse consultant for Primary Health Networks and always tries to bring a humanistic approach to the clinical governance and service review projects she undertakes.
Tessa has previously joined us on the podcast in Episode 25, Workplace bullying and harassment — personal stories and help-seeking. Tessa was also one of the winners of our first story competition for her piece Caring, a mutual and collective experience of nurses. She joined the podcast to discuss her winning story in Episode 22.
Georgie Southam is a Registered Midwife with over ten years’ experience. Her enthusiasm for midwifery grew after she had her own child and as a mature age student, she went back to university to undertake Bachelor’s degree at Australian Catholic University. Georgie has worked in the clinical setting across both private and public sectors in areas of labour and birth, postnatal care, high risk antenatal care, special care nursery and antenatal education. She has been preceptor to junior staff and students and enjoys working collaboratively within a team environment.
Her passion is working with families from all cultural backgrounds and vulnerabilities. She strives to facilitate positive experiences helping families feel safe and empowered in their journey into parenthood. Georgie feels blessed to have found a career she is so passionate about and looks forward to where it may take her in the years to come.
Born and raised in regional Victoria, with an extensive background in hospitality, Kat Evans is a mature-aged early career mental health nurse with a passion for caring for colleagues, carers, her family and self.
Mark Aitken [0:09] Welcome to the Nurse & Midwife Support podcast: Your Health Matters. I'm Mark Aitken, the podcast host. I'm the Stakeholder Engagement Manager with Nurse & Midwife Support, and I'm a registered nurse. Nurse & Midwife Support is the national support service for nurses, midwives and students. The service is anonymous, confidential and free, and you can call us anytime you need support. 1800-667-877, or contact us via the website: nmsupport.org.au.
Hello, and welcome to the Your Health Matters podcast. It's great to speak to you all on this episode, which is devoted entirely to your mental health, and that's because the mental health of nurses, midwives and students is vitally important. This podcast is part of our newsletter supporting the mental health of nurses, midwives and students. Today to discuss this, I've got two fabulous guests. Georgie Southam, and Kat Evans. Hello and welcome! And for the first time ever, I have a podcast co-host, and...I should do the drum roll...that person is Tessa Moriarty.
Tessa is a credentialed Mental Health Nurse Consultant, and will be well known to the Your Health Matters podcast audience. Tessa's been a previous podcast guest on Episode 25, 'Supporting nurses, midwives and students experiencing bullying and harassment'. Tessa was the inaugural winner of our first story competition, 'Caring: a mutual and collective experience of nurses'. If you'd like to read that story and listen to Tessa tell the story on a podcast, that's available via the website, www.nmsupport.org.au.
Hello, Tessa and welcome to my inaugural co-host.
Tessa Moriarty [2:19] Hello Mark, and hello Georgie and Kat. I feel so excited about being here, but also I feel really encouraged. It's so good to see Nurse & Midwife Support focusing on this issue. So thank you very much for the invitation to co-host this with you.
Mark Aitken [2:42] Fabulous. Now, Georgie, would you like to tell our listeners a bit about yourself and your background as a midwife who's got a special interest in mental health.
Georgie Southam [2:57] Hi Mark, and hi, Kat and Tessa also. Firstly, I'd just like to say thank you for having me join your podcast today, it's a real privilege. I think mental health is such an important topic that we just need to keep having those conversations around. I actually commenced my training as a mature age student and have now been a midwife for just over ten years. I did the Bachelor of Midwifery at ACU here in Melbourne. In that time, I've worked in the private system for about eight years, and at the beginning of 2020, I began working in a large tertiary hospital at the Royal Women's in Parkville.
It was actually a very big move at the time, and I think if I'd had a crystal ball, knowing that our hospital would be moving to the paperless system, not being very technologically savvy, and also that we'd be hit with a pandemic, I may not have been so brave. But I feel very passionate about my job and I'm blessed to have found a career in something that I really love, and I'm looking forward to where it may take me. Thank you.
Mark Aitken [4:10] Thanks, Georgie. No doubt we're very lucky to have somebody like you, passionate and committed, in our profession. Thanks very much. And Kat, welcome! Please tell us a bit about you.
Kat Evans [4:24] Thank you. It's an honour to be here and a part of this conversation. Like Georgie, I started my studies as a mature age student. I have a background in hospitality, and I had a real passion for mental health after being that barista where I was often people's first port of call in their day-to-day life. I felt like I preferred to deal with those problems than ‘my lunch is too hot,’ or ‘my latte's too cold,’ and made that transition into nursing in my late 20s. I come from a rural background and my studies ended up being extended due to having a child and yeah, that's the basics of where I am now. I finished my grad program last year and went on to a second grad program to work in Community Mental Health.
Mark Aitken [5:15] Thanks Kat, that's great. It's always really important and excellent to get the perspective of early career nurses and midwives, so we really value your contribution to the conversation today. As we know, and as Georgie has said, it's been a long and challenging two years plus now for many nurses, midwives and students. The often brutal pandemic has challenged us in ways that I don't think many of us perceived or imagined. Our work has at times impacted our mental health, unfortunately, and many indeed have developed mental illness.
Nurses, midwives, and students inform us that they have and experienced high levels of stress, and at times anxiety, depression, burnout. Some indeed, from the work that they've done, have reported post-traumatic stress disorder and are experiencing that. If that is your experience, or has been your experience, I'm sorry that's happened to you. Our work should never impact our work that way. But I want you to know that support is available and Nurse & Midwife Support has your back. We're here to support you no matter what you need, 1800 667 877 or via the website, www.nmsupport.org.au, and you can call us about any issue you need support for.
Now, the health of nurses, midwives and students is vitally important. It's vitally important because we are in the care and service of others. Indeed, our registration requires us to be healthy and well to do the work that we do. So at Nurse & Midwife Support, we strive to support the health and wellbeing of nurses, midwives and students. So on this episode of the Your Health Matters podcast, we're going to discuss mental health of nurses, midwives, and students, why it's important and why our mental health is really at the forefront of what we do, and what are the protective factors to support your mental health. It's vitally important, as I said, because your health really does matter. Tessa, would you add anything to that introduction?
Tessa Moriarty [7:40] No, but fabulous introduction, and thank you, very comprehensive. But I think one of the pointers I take from what you said, leads me into the first question, if I may ask that Mark, which really points to what you say...because we're in the business of caring for others, we really need to make sure we take care of ourselves. That drives me into my first question, if I may ask it, unless you've got something else to say, Mark, before I ask Georgie and Kat the first question?
Mark Aitken [8:15] Please go ahead, Tessa.
Tessa Moriarty [8:17] Great. Okay, so Georgie and Kat, how do you protect and maintain your own mental health?
Georgie Southam [8:24] Tessa, I think that's a really important question to ask ourselves, we're often very good at identifying the needs of others and not so great at attending to our own needs. On a personal level, I've implemented my own self-care plan, which is obviously a continual work in progress as life presents challenges and hurdles, and is ever changing, we need to tweak it regularly. Essentially, my self-care plan includes exercise, a healthy diet, relaxation, and importantly, but challengingly for me, good quality sleep.
Typically, at the end of the shift, the very first thing I do when I get home is to have a shower, and that washes away the workday and resets me for home. With exercise, I'm an avid walker, I will try and get out before or after a shift and I've got a lovely red kelpie dog that's a good catalyst to make me move. On my days off, I try and get out and exercise and do a few longer walks up in the bush or along the beach. I'm very much a lover of the outdoors, it's my happy place, being immersed in nature pretty much.
Healthy eating I think is important to fuel both the body and the mind. It's often challenging with shift work. It's easy to grab snack foods, which can be very full of sugar. I do try and plan my meals and add healthy snacks on the go. I've also learned not to shop when I'm hungry, invariably my shopping trolley comes home with very unhealthy, but delicious foods that are very high in sugar and not designed to give you great sustained energy levels. Staying hydrated can also be challenging, particularly, you know, in the current times of PPP, PPE, as every nurse and midwife will tell you. So it's really important to rehydrate and refuel on your breaks and make sure you take your breaks.
Quality sleep is also important, and I find this very challenging, being able to switch off after a shift, it's hard not to think [about] what's happened on your shift, especially if it's been a challenging one. Sometimes your body can be running on adrenaline, you may have just left after being part of a family's journey into parenthood for the first time, and you can go home on a bit of a high. Other times, we might be supporting families through grief and loss, and we can come home feeling really emotional and compassionately fatigued and depleted. I also find that when I do go to bed, because it's a time when I've actually stopped, I start thinking of all the things that I need to do and should be doing. So every now and then I do a big brain dump onto paper. That might be just a list of things that I need to do, or just stuff that's on my mind, so that that often helps. I try and avoid caffeine from lunchtime onwards, I guess, and technology like social media. I try and try and limit that as much as I can. I think there's so much exposure to negative information out there, particularly with what's going on in the world today, and that definitely can be very overwhelming.
Finally, relaxation. Just finding time to relax is very important for mental wellbeing, connecting with family and friends, and taking time out to do something that I enjoy is very important. And I just wanted to mention having pets, I think they're great for mental health. You could've had the worst day, and you come home and you're greeted by a happy four-legged furry friend and your mood does lift. I really value having pets in my life. That's pretty much my self-care plan.
Tessa Moriarty [12:35] Thank you so much. I welcome comments, quick comments from others before we hear how you protect and maintain your mental health care. But can I say, Georgie, that I actually think you should market what you do, because we've covered everything, it's beautiful. From all the areas of one's life, but you're also very real about what you do and you do it regularly. I love much of what you say. Thank you so much for saying that. I don't know that we've got time to pick up the little bits and pieces, but everything you've said from that transition from work to the home, to your nutrition, to your exercise and relaxation. I even love that you do a word dump! That's so nice. So thank you very much. Kat and Mark, did you want to comment on what Georgie has said before you speak, Kat?
Mark Aitken [13:32] I'll go, if I may, Tessa. Thanks very much, Georgie, a wonderful overview of how you protect and maintain your mental health. Developing your own self-care plan is music to my ears, because this is something we advocate at Nurse & Midwife Support. When I present at conferences or events on Nurse & Midwife Support and the importance of health and wellbeing for nurses and midwives, that's exactly what I advocate. What I say is, to nurses and midwives, we're really good at developing care plans for others, so why wouldn't we do that for ourselves? And it's almost like I can see the light bulbs going on in the audience, saying, "Yeah, like, why don't I?" Occasionally, like you, Georgia, I meet somebody who says, "I already do that!" and it's wonderful. So thanks very much for sharing that experience, it's great.
Tessa Moriarty [14:34] Thank you, Mark. Kat, did you want to make some comments on what Georgie has said before you speak to your own mental health?
Kat Evans [14:43] I just want to say she's really giving me a list of goals to work towards! There's definitely things that Georgie touched on that I like to think that I'm doing and hearing the regularity with which she actually is able to keep that up is really impressive. Definitely goals! Thanks Georgie.
Tessa Moriarty [15:06] It's nice and now tell us about how you yourself, protect and maintain your mental health.
Kat Evans [15:11] There's definitely elements of things that Georgie said, when she ended with talking about the four-legged furry friends. Now, we've got a pet cat at home, and she's always there for cuddles. She's one of the most ridiculously fluffy, snuggly animals that I've ever met, but she's my partner's cat. I needed for my own mental health, my own pets, and I chose fish as a low-maintenance creature. I think especially being a mental health clinician, their low emotional needs, made them a really ideal pet choice for me. They're just something that I can sit and watch and just tune out in my day. If I've had a hard day, even if the day has been relaxing, and then it just maintains that for me. So that's a huge one for me as well.
We tried a dog earlier this year, and we tried with a puppy and luckily, my partner's sister chucked in for it and when it all became too much, she said, "It's okay guys, I can take that pressure off." So we were able to farm our puppy out without it breaking my daughter's heart because we still get to go and visit Auntie and the dog. That was really important for us to realise how much pressure we had put on ourselves and to be able to let that go without it affecting us as a team. Emotionally, I suppose.
Which brings me to time with family, that's a huge part of my protective factors. Now I have a tiny person at home, and so I have to be well for her. I have to make sure that at the end of the day, I can come home and not carry that work stuff home with me. There is that real thing of opening the door, I'm in a whole new space and everything from earlier in the day, it's well and truly left behind. Sometimes I wish that I lived a little further from work so that I had a longer drive to process it. But I really do appreciate putting the radio on in the car and turning off work. So that I have that space to reset before I walk in the door at home. I think that's a really important one. That time with family is really important. We make sure that we have regular activities, whether it's weekends, going out together. I make sure I do playgroup with her once a week or something that's specific around the child. I think that really takes me out of myself and all of my career goals and focuses me on my main purpose in life, really.
Debriefing is really important for me. I spend a lot of time texting and calling friends and making sure I have those connections outside of the home and work. I do have a lot of friends that I've met at work. They're really important to have for me to be able to talk about work-related things. But then to have other people outside of that, to be able to discuss other life concerns...I've really organised it well, accidentally, in terms of having a couple of good girlfriends to talk to you about parenting and a couple of good friends to talk about relationships and specific friends for specific emotional needs for myself has been something that I've accidentally done.
In terms of physical health, I like to think that I walk a lot, but I know it's probably not sufficient. But I have more recently implemented daily yoga, or stretching. I like to get up in the morning before anyone else is awake and just find my own space and my own quiet and get out of the bedhead stage before I get into the work stage and reset and do something physical for me and really come to life. If I have the time [that] day, I'll do that in the morning and the evening. If there's still energy in the night, I'll do that, and even if I don't have the energy, I'll just do a couple of quick things just to get back in my body and let the emotional and the mental stuff wash away for the day. That's basically what it is that I do for the self care and protective factors.
Tessa Moriarty [19:42] That's fantastic. The word that comes to me listening to you is your balance. There's a good amount of attention you pay to what you need to do at work, and the boundary between who you are at work and who you are at home with your family and how important that is to you and your role as a mother. But you also rightly take care of Kat, the person yourself, and that was really lovely to hear as well. Thank you so much for sharing all that. Georgie and Mark, did you want to comment in the same way that we did after Georgie's mental health and wellbeing? Did you want to make a comment about Kat, what Kat has said?
Georgie Southam [20:31] Tessa, I think that Kat's really hit the mark with her debriefing and having those few close friends that she can talk to about different areas of her life. I think those connections are really, really important and something that I probably could do a little bit more of also. So thanks, Kat.
Kat Evans [20:54] Cheers.
Mark Aitken [20:57] Thanks very much Kat for sharing that. What really sings out to me is that very much for both of you, there's an intention around your self-care, and the things that you've put in place as protective factors. I'm going to call that intentional self-care. I think you've both evolved that, and it seems to be highly evolved for both of you, and you pay it the respect, the time, and the intention that it requires. I think that's very much a key message for often extremely busy, and challenged nurses, midwives and students, that intentional self-care is just that: it requires intention, purpose and time. If you do that, then you develop it as a habit and a routine, and you're much more likely to do it.
I think there's some very important key messages for our listeners, if you're struggling to make space or time in your day, then develop, as Georgie says, your own self-care plan. Set your goals for your self-care, and the maintenance of your mental health and wellbeing. What I say is, type it up on your computer, print it out, share it with people in your life that are gonna support it. Put it on your fridge, for example, so that everybody in your life knows that what's important to you on a particular day is not a nice to-do, but it's something I really need to do to maintain my health and wellbeing, my mental health. Great points from both of you, and some key messages and pearls of wisdom for our listeners. So thank you,
Tessa Moriarty [22:50] Beautiful. Mark, are we going on now to look at the next question around how managers...?
Mark Aitken [22:57] Yeah, before that, Tessa, I might start with what organisations do to support the mental health of their employees.
Tessa Moriarty [23:06] Yes.
Mark Aitken [23:07] Now, organisations actually have a responsibility to maintain the health and wellbeing, and support the health and wellbeing of their employees. We know some organisations do this really, really well, and some organisations are looking for opportunities for improvement. With this question, I'm really interested Kat and Georgie, to know what you've observed in perhaps the organisation you work in, or ones you've worked in previously, what organisations do, or could do, to support the mental health of their nurses, midwives and students. So we might start with you, Georgie.
Georgie Southam [23:50] Thanks, Mark. Look, the Women's have a lot of resources supporting mental health and they've actually developed some really great initiatives, particularly in response to the challenges of COVID. There's the EAP, which is the Employment Assistance Program, and that's a free confidential counselling service. We have—this is what I really like—we have a Peer Support Service, which is like Mental Health First Aid,. It's run by a network of staff who are trained to provide peer-to-peer mental health support to any other staff that might be experiencing a decline in their mental health. They basically offer a non-judgmental space for them to share basically what's on their mind and to be heard, and then those peers can then go on and provide information or referrals to other additional support systems. So that's a good one that I really like.
We also have a Graduate Support Program that's available for all Nursing and Midwifery graduates of 2022. These grads, they're our future, they've started their careers at a really challenging time. Most of them started through the 'Code Brown'. Basically what happens is an EAP counsellor will check in on them, see how they're going, provide some opportunities to debrief and discuss any work-related or personal issues that might be impacting their health, and just provide them with some potential coping strategies. That will happen at around one month and four months from when they've started.
We also have a Women's Wellness Program, a wellbeing program, and that program just runs some campaigns and awareness campaigns, and health and wellbeing webinars. It might have a range of different activities to support the staffs' wellbeing, at work and at home. Some of these activities may include yoga and exercise challenges. A couple of years ago, we did a walk. We got into groups of four, clocked our kilometres, and then it was like a ladder of who got the most kilometres. It was a good opportunity to get out and walk with your colleagues and they can talk as well as get some exercise.
Also, with COVID and the pandemic, we have an initiative called Project Care. Basically through the Vic government and the Department of Health, the hospital received a grant. This grant runs through till the end of June, I believe, and staff basically have access to some onsite, one-on-one counselling weekly at the Parkville Campus. That's been really well-received. Also, there's some meals and healthy snacks, and new coffee machines and things like that, which will just make our shifts a bit nicer.
One other thing I really want to share with you, which is something that I really like, is a Going Home Checklist. It's placed around the hospital, and it just helps [with] the transition from work to home. I'll read it out to you, because it's something that I think we should all think of before we leave work. This is what it says: ‘Take a moment to think about today. Acknowledge one thing that was difficult on your shift. Now, let it go. Be proud of the care you gave today. Consider three things that went well. Check on your colleagues before they leave. Are they okay? Think about yourself before you leave. Are you okay? Your senior team are here to listen and support you. Now switch your attention to home, and rest and recharge.’ I think that's a really nice way to finish your shift.
Mark Aitken [28:15] Thanks very much, Georgie. I couldn't agree more. I think that the Women's are doing some incredible work in this space, so kudos to them, and many organisations are. I guess if there's a silver lining out of this pandemic it's that we've had a greater spotlight put on the importance of health and wellbeing and what organisations can do to support the health and wellbeing of their staff. So there's some great examples of that. Thanks very much. Tessa, did you have anything to say about that?
Tessa Moriarty [28:49] I just reiterate what you said really, I certainly know, personally, about some of the great work the Women's is doing and participated in one of their wellbeing webinars, and it was a real privilege to be in. The response and the way people took that in, staff took that in was wonderful.
Mark Aitken [29:09] Terrific. Kat, what about your organisation or organisations you've worked in? I guess what I'm interested in [is] you as an early career Mental Health Nurse. Also about your experience with university and what universities may have done to support the wellbeing of students and really how students or early career nurses and midwives could access support from their organisations or universities.
Kat Evans [29:37] I'm glad you asked actually, because I had a lot of stuff going on in my life during my studies, and I found my university to be incredibly supportive of that. I did undertake regular counselling, free counselling services with my university and I found that to be incredibly beneficial when things got really tough. They made sure that I had study plans in place, and if there was a need for extensions and whatnot, that was absolutely available to me. They were able to write out recommendations for my lecturers and whatnot to ensure that I wasn't under any excessive stress from life being compounded by being a student.
I found that space to be really, really well supported. It wasn't something that was overly communicated through our lecturers or anything. It was something I really felt that I had to seek out myself, but I was very aware that it was there. It was a hallway that I'd walked through several times and sort of [wondered] who are these counsellors? Are they available to me? And they absolutely were. That was really a saving grace during my studies.
Different placements as well...I found that each one, they had very different systems in place to support students. I did most of my placements at quite a small rural hospital, and because I'd spent so much time there, I felt very supported by the education team there. I did end up getting a job there through my last year of studies, because of the support that I was given during my placements there. I couldn't speak a lot for the actual supports that they had in place, but as far as I'm aware, all state hospitals have the EAP, the Employment Assistance Program. I have not had to use that in my time yet, but I'm very aware that if there's anything that I feel that I need, I can go and get [it].
In terms of being an early career Mental Health Nurse, I was really fortunate to have...last year and in my first graduate year, we had monthly education sessions that included a group supervision program. I think there are about 16 of us. We'd break off into two groups and we'd debrief on the difficult moments that we'd had in that previous month. They were really well-structured to ensure that we felt supported by not only our peers, but our educators, and that we had a safe space to unpack some of the difficult things that we had gone through.
Then coming into the second year, our clinical educator paired us up with people that she thought would be suitable for us, for individual supervision going forward in our career, because it's very important as mental health clinicians to have that regular supervision. For people who don't know, that's a monthly structured debrief session, I suppose. I've been paired with someone who I'm still yet to meet with because they've been seconded into different roles, and we've really struggled to find time that we can meet up. Next week, I'll have my first individual supervision. I'm really looking forward to doing that and being able to offload a lot of struggles I've been having, coming to terms with a brand new role and new career.
We've also started very recently, a free Workforce Wellbeing Virtual ECHO within our organisation. It's supported by the mental health [inaudible], as well as the Drug and Alcohol service that we have. That's very much structured around the Pillars of Mental Health. We've only had one ECHO so far, and it began with a beautiful mindfulness activity, discussing wellbeing and emotional intelligence. It was really interesting, a really beautiful way for staff to access support, and have an understanding of our own wellbeing and emotional needs.
A relatively new thing that's been happening is free massages. A local company accessed some funding and have been able to offer staff members 15 minute massages at different intervals in the day and that's been something that's been very well received and they had their first lot of massages booked out within four hours. So that's something that a lot of people have jumped on. That's as much as I know that's happening at the moment.
Mark Aitken [34:50] Thanks, Kat, it sounds like the organisation that you work for and the university that you studied at were doing some great work, and are doing great work in relation to supporting the mental health of nurses and midwives.
If you're an executive nurse or midwifery executive listening to this, and you would like to talk about any of these things, feel free to call Nurse & Midwife Support to discuss any of these aspects. Indeed, if you're a nurse, midwife or student who requires support, I think we've identified today through this conversation that part of maintaining our mental health is reaching out for support sooner rather than later. Nurse & Midwife Support is available 24/7 nationally to support the health and wellbeing of nurses and midwives. 1800 667 877, or contact us via the website, www.nmsupport.org.au.
Now we've talked about organisations and how organisations support, and could think about supporting the mental health of their employees. But if we go to the immediate direct line manager or supervisor, is there anything either of you would add in relation to how a manager or a direct line supervisor could support the mental health of nurses, midwives or students reporting to them. Georgie, we might go to you first.
Georgie Southam[36:27] Thanks, Mark. I think managers have an enormous role in supporting the wellbeing of their team, because they're often the first port of call when staff are needing mental health support, particularly where staff have needed to take time out from work. It's always nice for the staff to know that the door is open for them. I guess being approachable and available to communicate and listen is very important. Motivation, encouraging growth and development and providing feedback back is helpful and it provides that feel-good sense of achievement. Basically encouraging staff to look after their own health and providing them with access to resources, like the resources we've talked about, and just to ask for help, really.
Mark Aitken [37:19] Good advice. I think a key point here is managers or supervisors, listening to this, please know that your support and your mental health is vitally important, too. Often those middle management roles I often think are the most challenging in health services, because you're pulled in many directions, and it's often difficult to carve out space for you, so these messages are vitally important to you.
When I was a manager, the thing that touched me the most was when my staff that worked with me or reported to me would say, "And how are you, Mark? Are you okay, do you need anything?" or that simple thing of them seeing that I was on a deadline and saying, "I'm going to make you a cup of tea and bring it in here, because you haven't had a break." Those really small but significant gestures of care towards each other, I think make a huge difference.
Is there anything else you'd add to that, Kat, what managers or supervisors can do to support their staff?
Kat Evans [38:28] Absolutely in line with what you've just said, Mark. I think that's beautiful that your staff were checking in on you. Feeding that both ways, making sure that your managers are checking in...particularly coming from a junior position, making sure that your staff are all around what it is that they're doing, and that they're finding that balance in work and life. Particularly when they're having to take time off for physical ailments, making sure that they're feeling well supported in returning to work. Just that checking in is really important, I find.
Mark Aitken [39:02] Thanks, Kat. Tessa, is there anything else you'd like to add in here? I'm gonna handball to you after that.
Tessa Moriaty [39:12] Absolutely. The two things that I would perhaps reiterate [with] a little more detail is I think the role modelling the managers actually [do]...not just caring for their staff, which is a lovely example you gave, but also role modelling taking care of their own mental health. Managers are role models of everything that they do, that's why they're managers, because they're leaders and they're actually people who manage and lead us. I think that's really important. I think too, there's a role for them to develop and create mental health and wellbeing literacy, a level of education and information across the staff. They're the two things that I would add that I think are also really important.
Mark Aitken [40:06] Great points, Tessa. Over to you for the next question.
Tessa Moriarty [40:10] So this next question, in some ways goes back to where we started, but Georgie and Kat, as nurses...Kat, yourself in the early development phase of your career, [and] Georgie, you where you are in your career...and both of you have life experience. Could you both speak to both what and how nurses, midwives and students in their early career can establish really good patterns to protect and maintain their mental health? Georgie, would you like to go first?
Georgie Southam [40:55] Thanks, Tessa. I think that's a really good question. I think definitely developing a self-care plan to suit individual needs and [identify] what's important to you. Definitely staying connected with family, friends and work colleagues, and taking time out to do activities that you enjoy to help reduce any of those anxieties and stresses that you might have in your life. Those sorts of activities could be physical activities, or something that might give a sense of pleasure or achievement.
I also read, when I was doing a little bit of reading for this podcast on one of the wellbeing websites, [what] I thought was a great idea...I think came out of the lockdown time...was to have a check-in buddy.I think that can continue to work. It can be a partner or a friend, a family member, or a work colleague, just to have someone that you can discuss how you're feeling at that time and make a regular check-in time. I think that's really important. All those habits, I think, are helpful, particularly when you're starting off.
Tessa Moriarty [42:14] Nice. Can I ask you to elaborate a tiny little bit, Georgie, if you wouldn't mind, that check-in buddy. What do you do with that check-in buddy?
Georgie Southam [42:25] Well, it could be just a coffee, it could be a walk, and it's basically discussing how you're feeling and where you're at. It could be another work colleague that's at the same level as you—like if you're a graduate, or a year out or two years out—to have a to-and-fro conversation about some of the things that you might be finding [or] you're getting a bit anxious over, because chances are they're feeling the same sort of anxieties, and having that conversation to talk about it can really help.
Tessa Moriarty [43:01] Nice, nice. You're not alone, in that sense, are you? Thank you so much.
Kat, you're a few years into your career now. What advice would you give to those coming through, in their early stages?
Kat Evans [43:25] I think first and foremost is to develop your own sense of self-awareness, your emotional state, your emotional resilience, what you feel that you can take on and what you need to debrief with. Self-compassion is incredibly important as well in that same space, and getting to know your boundaries when it comes to all facets of work, be it the client interaction, manager interaction, even getting to and from work can be stressful sometimes. So mostly developing that self-awareness, self-compassion, emotional resilience, and finding what supports are available.
Creating healthy routines, I find, is also really important, as Georgie's highlighted, and she's obviously really good at [that] by now. But in the first couple of years, like in the last 15 months, I've been trying out a whole lot of different things and finding out what actually works for you. Some people love going to the gym. I tried it, it's not my jam. So try something different, maybe you like walks, maybe you like yoga, maybe you just need social interaction. So really finding what works for you and setting up routines around it. I love Georgie's idea of the check-in buddy, I think that's beautiful. Like I touched on earlier, it's something that I have with different elements of my life, but to have that regular contact with someone to discuss important elements of your life or career is so important.
Tessa Moriarty [44:53] Thank you, Kat, I love that. Mark, I'll ask you to comment in a moment, but if I could just say, I particularly love, Kat, that you say, it's not the same for everyone, or [as] you say beautifully, "It's not your jam," and it is about finding the jam that works for you. You're absolutely right. There are options that you've tried and discovered what works for you to process, and that's really fantastic. Thank you.
Mark, would you like to add or comment on anything?
Mark Aitken [45:18] I agree with all those points and there's some really useful and important information there. So thanks, Georgie and Kat for sharing. What it raises for me is a really important element here, which is about as you provide person-centred care to those that you care for, ensure that you give that to yourself, that when you're considering all these elements, that you're being kind to yourself, you're being person-centred, and that you're not comparing yourself to others and what others may or may not be doing so that you're thinking about this stuff without judgement, without judgement of self.
If you're not able to meet your self-care, or intentional care goals every day, then that's okay. Don't be hard on yourself, take the pressure off. Because I think as nurses and midwives, we often put undue pressure onto ourselves and it does not serve our health and wellbeing. Apply person-centred care to you, because you are absolutely worth it.
Tessa Moriarty[46:37] Love it, and you're absolutely right there. Again, it's just picking up what you said before, Kat, about self-compassion. When we are compassionate towards others in our care, and we need to turn it around to self. Lovely. Mark, are you going to move into the next question?
Mark Aitken [46:57] I suppose as we come to the end of this podcast...and what a great conversation it has been. I know all this information will support nurses and midwives. but a lot of our audience really look for and appreciate resources, because we've given a lot of information in this episode. I know you've both done research in preparation for this podcast, and it's ringing through. What resources would you recommend for nurses, midwives and students that can support their mental health? We might go to you first, Georgie.
Georgie Southam [47:39] Well, actually Nurse & Midwife Support is a fabulous one, and obviously contacting your EAP. Checking out the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program because they've got a lot of information on there, lots of different fact sheets. There's the Nurse Break website as well. There's lots and lots of mindfulness apps, Calm and Smiling Mind are some of those. Then you've got your Black Dog Institute and Beyond Blue headspace, and look, visit your GP. I mean, your GP can do a mental health assessment, and then steer you in the right direction for further help, should you need it. They're some of the bigger resources that will support the mental health of nurses, midwives and students.
Mark Aitken [48:34] Thanks Georgie, great tips and great resources. Kat, do you have others to add there?
Kat Evans [48:40] There's not much I can add to that. I've found, again, specific apps for specific needs. I found one that was really helpful, and I shared it with a friend. She said she tried it for a couple of days and went 'No, this one's not for me." But it's because we have such different driving motivations. But most of what I researched was similar to what came up with Georgie.
Mark Aitken [49:05] Thanks very much. I will add some great online resources that we've advocated via the podcast. Last year, I think the middle of the year, I spoke to Jay Court from This Way Up. This Way Up provides fantastic mental health online resources for anybody, but they're particularly designed for health professionals. I'll put the link to that podcast and those resources in the show notes for this podcast. You'll be able to find them there or google 'This Way Up' and you'll find those great resources.
Tessa, would you add anything to those resources that have been discussed?
Tessa Moriarty [49:49] Yes, I would. Great resources, everybody. The only other thing I would add, which again, I think just picks up on what you've already all said, is that a resource that worked for me, for the last six months, [won't] necessarily work for me now, because I've changed and I have different needs, and I'm in a different situation in a different context. So I think it's important to reevaluate, sometimes. Are these supports or resources working? It's kind of along that thing of actually anything that you do want to reevaluate, you do want to reconsider. You don't stay on the same medication forever and a day, and [nor] should you. [Nor] do the same supports work for you all the time, but it's that kind of regrouping, reevaluating. What do I need today? What helped me yesterday, is it going to help me today? I think that's really important.
Mark Aitken [50:47] Terrific. As I said, at the beginning of the podcast, this podcast is part of a newsletter, which is full of great information and resources to support the health and wellbeing of nurses and midwives. So check out those resources.
Something that you've all talked about today is the importance of walking. Tessa, I know you've written a great blog on walking and its benefit to mental health, and that blog is available as part of this suite of resources in the newsletter. Is there anything you want to add there, Tessa?
Tessa Moriarty [51:29] I will, just that, please, anyone listening to this, look out for that blog, but I think it's a universal resource that anyone can use anytime. It's something that you can vary and change up. I wouldn't add anything other than I love walking.
Mark Aitken [51:50] And the best thing is, it's free in a world that loves to charge. As is Nurse & Midwife Support, I may add, a national free support service for nurses, midwives, and students, 1800 667 877. Now we're at the end of the podcast, but something I always ask guests is, do you have any final words of wisdom to our listeners? Georgia, we might start with you.
Georgie Southam [52:18] I think, don't forget to be kind to yourself. Stay connected with your family, your friends and your peers. Don't be afraid to ask for help, and just keep working on that self-care plan. You really need to look after yourself.
Mark Aitken [52:36] Thank you. Kat, any final words of wisdom from you?
Kat Evans [52:40] As we're all aware with health care, prevention is key. So keep on top of the self-care and intentional self-care, and we can get through it all. Identify the problems before they arise and find solutions.
Mark Aitken [52:57] Thank you. And my wonderful podcast co-host Tessa, I know, you'll have a pearl of wisdom at the end of the podcast.
Tessa Moriarty [53:07] The only thing I would add here is that the beautiful thing about self-care is that every morning when I wake up, after I've thought about what I'm grateful for, I can use it as an opportunity to what didn't work yesterday or what I need to improve today, I can give a go today. Each day gives us an opportunity, a new opportunity to take care of ourselves.
Mark Aitken [53:39] Thanks very much, Tessa, and thank you very much to all of you for being fabulous guests. I really appreciate your time, your wisdom, your expertise, and your support for nurses, midwives and students throughout Australia. If you are listening to this podcast and it's raised any issues for you, please reach out for support. That's been a key message in this podcast. Your health absolutely does matter, and Nurse & Midwife Support is available to support you 24/7, no matter where you are in Australia. 1800 667 877 or via the website and nmsupport.org.au. Look after yourself and each other and I'll speak to you next time.