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Education that cares for nurses and midwives

Education and support for nurses and midwives
Photo: Education and support for nurses and midwives
Want to try mindfulness to combat workplace or home pressures, improve your sleep, or step up your level of activity?

Need help with addiction, such as alcohol, drugs or gambling, or with stress, anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with diabetes, chronic pain or menopause, or with compassion fatigue or workplace violence?

A new national service, Nurse & Midwife Support, features online education and provides an around-the-clock telephone support and referral service specifically designed for nurses, midwives, students, employers, educators, or concerned friends or relatives.

Mark Aitken, a registered nurse of 30 years and stakeholder engagement officer at Nurse & Midwife Support, says the site provides Australia’s 380,000 nurses and midwives with the latest educational resources from leading health organisations.
“We encourage nurses and midwives to engage in health promotion, so take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing - eating well, getting enough rest, getting enough hydration, and getting enough exercise,” he says.

“Some nurses and midwives will probably laugh at that because clinical nursing is a very physical job, and nurses and midwives are walking around virtually their entire shift providing care, so that if you put a pedometer on them they probably cover a lot of kilometres, but I think there’s other exercises that nurses and midwives need to engage in, if they are not already, to stay healthy.

“Our tag line is - your health matters. I really like that because it kind of says to me as a nurse that just as the health of my patients is important - so is mine, and it reminds me that I need to take care of that, and I need to take care of the health of my colleagues when I am able to or when they seek support and assistance.”

The website features information and tips on staying healthy, addiction, workplace issues, mental health, life, professional obligation, and accessing support.

It also provides information for nurses, midwives and students in LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex), culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD), rural and remote, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Importantly, the service is designed to ensure nurses and midwives can continue to provide professional, safe and quality care to patients.

Nurse & Midwife Support is the first national dedicated telephone and online service that provides confidential advice and referral to nurses and midwives about their health and wellbeing.

The service, run independently by Turning Point, is an initiative of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and comes after a research project reviewed the referral, treatment and rehabilitation services for nurses and midwives with a health impairment.

The report found 66 per cent of 10,000 nursing and midwifery survey respondents had either witnessed or experienced a health impairment, while nurses and midwives reported they were uncertain about where and how to seek support, and were also uncertain about the mandatory notification threshold.

Most respondents also believed health support services could be improved, while many were unaware of existing mental health, drug and alcohol support services able to provide help.

Since it launched in March, the service has received numerous calls of support as well as calls from health services and managers seeking information about the service.

Mr Aitken says the service has received calls from nurses and midwives experiencing occupational violence, bullying and harassment, drug and alcohol problems, and health issues including chronic diabetes and musculoskeletal problems.

“Just like many nurses and midwives work 24/7, that telephone service is available 24/7, so if you’re a nurse working nightshift and you’ve got your night off or you are in your tea break and you need to call us, there will be somebody to answer your call at four in the morning,” he says.

“The majority of our call centre staff are very experienced nurses and midwives and that’s important because nurses and midwives like to think they are speaking to a nurse or a midwife about a health issue.”

As part of the education component of the service, Mr Aitken’s role involves meeting with nurses and midwives, students and stakeholders to promote the service, while also providing education on how nurses and midwives can look after their own health to prevent their risk of health impairment.

“We are very keen to engage in the health promotion space or early intervention space for nurses and midwives and students of the professions because we actually want to support people before a health issue develops, or much earlier.”

Mr Aitken says nurses and midwives regularly undertake incredibly stressful work, and cumulative stress can lead to major health issues.

“Like the rest of society, nurses and midwives aren’t immune from drug and alcohol issues or gambling problems or other health issues, such as musculoskeletal issues around back injuries,” he says.

“I believe that now we’re giving nurses and midwives permission to say - ‘I’m actually not okay, and I want to seek help early, and sometimes, the work I do, I find it stressful, that it’s compounding those problems’.

“Nurses and midwives care for other people, so why wouldn’t we do our utmost to care for them?

“Now we can proudly say this service does, hopefully your colleagues do, hopefully your manager does, and hopefully nurses can be kind and supportive to each other, and therefore enjoy much better health and a much better quality of life.”

* To access support call 1800 667 877 or visit Nurse & Midwife Support.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords