Thinking Differently Together - First 1,000 Days Of Life

Compassion Fatigue: the challenges for staff Cat explained that the Professional Midwifery Advocates (PMA) role helps midwives to identify ways to improve their own and their team’s practice, as well as creating a safe space for midwives to reflect. Colleagues come to PMAs for a wide range of reasons. It may follow a specific incident or trauma, and especially through the pandemic feelings of burnout or feeling inadequate. We help people with reflective discussions for their professional revalidation. Some people want to talk about difficulties they are experiencing outside of work. An increasing number of people are coming to us with compassion fatigue, and the following piece, based on the sorts of things we hear, may help people to understand some of the feelings they share. “[exhales]… I’m just going to sit here for a little longer. I just… I can’t quite face going back out there yet. I just… need a couple more minutes to… I don’t know what. I don’t know what the answer is at this point. I’m just exhausted. I didn’t sleep very well last night, I couldn’t switch off, I kept thinking about the shift that I’d just done and the fact I needed to come back and do it all again in a few hours. I can’t find my mojo today, this week, month. Actually I don’t remember the last time I had my mojo… Every day we come in and it’s like the managers think we can split ourselves in half! [sighs] At least the couple I’m looking after are nice… but I can’t seem to connect with them. What happened to me? A global pandemic…? I don’t know quite how long we can keep blaming that. Perhaps I’m just not cut out for this. I used to be so keen, so eager. I loved coming to work not knowing what the day was gonna bring. I was addicted to that adrenaline rush. I loved caring for people, being with women, nothing beat a birth for me… Now I couldn’t tell you the name of the person I was looking after yesterday… I do remember the time of birth though: 18:57. Barely enough time for me to finish my paperwork before I had to hand over. What has happened to me? Why do I feel so disconnected? I keep losing my temper with my partner. He just doesn’t seem to understand, he can’t grasp that I’ve got nothing left at the end of a shift. I have got no patience with anybody at the moment. I’ve started looking at other jobs, seeing what else I can do with a midwifery degree. I just feel so helpless here. I need to do something because this isn’t sustainable… That’s my patient’s call bell. I’d better get back. Compassion fatigue is the profound physical and emotional exhaustion that caregivers can develop over the course of their careers. It is a gradual erosion of all things that keep us connected to others in our caring role and the reason why we initially started wanting to give care. It takes away our empathy, our hope, and our compassion for ourselves and others. Compassion fatigue doesn’t just affect those who are professional caregivers such as midwives and nurses, it can affect anyone who gives care to another person. Symptoms can include irritability, frustration, sadness, depression, difficulties sleeping, feelings of worthlessness, and heightened emotions. People will often isolate themselves from family and colleagues, may not practice self care, or may misuse alcohol, smoke or use drugs to try to manage their feelings. At work they may try to do too much, become task focused, feel under-resourced or look to others to blame. They may lose the ability to empathise and may not see the value in what they are doing. Being overwhelmed can cause physical illness and some leave their profession. However, there are things we can do, starting with self care, attending to sleep, nutrition, hydration, exercise, and doing things for ourselves. A network of trusted supporters is vital, where staff can be met with empathy and understanding; PMAs such as Cat can help in this role, helping to support, to challenge the negative emotions and see alternatives. NHS Foundation Trust East Suffolk and North Essex Cat Cracknell, Professional Midwifery Advocate, East Suffolk & North Essex NHS Foundation Trust Thinking Differently Together | 10

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