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Helping nurses cope with psychological trauma in the workplace

Posted: 7th April 2021

Burn out, stress and PTSD have impacted a high proportion of our hard working community of nurses over the last year, but now a helpful new toolkit and video have been developed to help nurses deal with trauma.

As part of a new creative project, community nurses have harnessed the power of storytelling to deal with the emotional demands of working during the crisis of a pandemic and have shared their experiences in a powerful new video.

The video is part of the SEEDs project set up a year ago in response to the high levels of ongoing stress being experienced by community nurses in their roles.

Proposed by Interim Clinical Nurse Manager of NHS Lothian Catriona Drummond, the project came from the knowledge and evidence that across Scotland increased attrition, poor retention of staff and compassion fatigue were very real problems for the community nursing profession. Catriona’s colleague Karen Stout District Nurse Team Manager led nurse liaison, venue sourcing and managed collaboration with the video participants throughout.

Drawing on the experience of Queen Margaret University’s Senior Nursing Lecturer, Dr Caroline Dickson, and Honorary Nursing Lecturer and founder of Listen Up Storytelling, Dr Kath MacDonald, the group worked with community nurses to co-produce a toolkit to help professionals cope with psychological trauma.

The interactive toolkit developed called CAKE, which stands for Caring for self and others, Attending to what’s happening, Keeping connected and Enabling and empowering, will be available later in the year.

The SEEDS project was funded by Catalysts for Change, a programme run by the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland in partnership with the National Lottery Community Fund.

The SEEDs project report is available on the Listen Up Storytelling and QNIS websites:

The SEEDs participants said of the project:
“Listening to everyone’s individual stories was a very emotional experience, but I felt it made us feel close as a group and stronger as a profession. Alongside this emotional rollercoaster, you helped us explore and search for the tools we need to deal with the feelings and emotions we experience day in and day out.

“I hope by supporting our colleagues and teams, by using the skills and tools we trialled and tested, explored, discussed, and reflected on, that we will be able to support our colleagues and ourselves moving forward.”

Discussing the power of storytelling in healthcare, Dr Kath MacDonald explained: “Storytelling has been used for centuries to entertain and engage. In terms of the benefits to healthcare professionals, using fairy tales and creative methods to share information and express oneself can distance the storyteller from the actual event and help to create a safe space.

“This is very important in the telling of traumatic stories and it is proving to be a powerful and useful platform to support our nursing professionals through challenging times.”

Karen Stout who worked closely with the participants during the group workshops said:

“The SEEDS project was undertaken during a very challenging time and the development of a resource to help nurses cope with psychological trauma in the workplace couldn’t have been timelier. It is very exciting that we will soon be able to share the CAKE toolkit across the service, with wider nursing teams and beyond.  I am proud to have worked with such an enthusiastic team of nurses, QMU and QNIS throughout the project.”

Photos show the CAKE toolkit: a recipe for self-care, wellbeing and team resilience.

Watch the video here:

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