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  • Remote health professionals wanted for trauma study

    Author: Karen Keast

A new study aims to improve the management of remote health professionals who experience traumatic events.

CRANAplus, the peak body for remote health practitioners, and The Centre for Remote Health have joined forces to review and enhance how management oversees remote nurses, midwives, allied health professionals, doctors and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers in the wake of traumatic events.

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CRANAplus Bush Support Services (BSS) senior clinical psychologist Dr Annmaree Wilson said the idea for the study came about several years ago after callers to BSS’s 24-hour, seven day a week telephone counselling service reported their recovery was hindered due to management.

“Callers have felt that the management and the other people that they work with inadvertently exacerbated the problem in a way because of the way they’ve dealt with the individual who’s been traumatised,” she said

“We thought it would be really interesting to more formally look at the stories that people have around those sorts of traumatic experiences and how they’ve been dealt with by management and by the people around them.”

Dr Wilson said remote health professionals are more likely than their regional and urban counterparts to repeatedly experience traumatic events due to the nature of their work in remote and isolated areas.

“There’s a whole gamut of traumatic events that remote area health workers repeatedly experience and potentially can be quite traumatic,” she said.

“You might have a remote area nurse who is the first on the scene of a motor vehicle accident and so the nurse is attending very injured people for an extended period of time while waiting for more help to come in.

“For whatever reason, their normal coping strategies don’t work - it could be that they’re going through a difficult time in their personal life, they might have money worries, they might have relationship issues.

“For whatever reason, this particular event impacts on them significantly and they’re feeling like they can’t cope, they’re feeling very teary, they’re feeling unable to attend properly to their patients.

“You might have a situation where you’ve got their direct line manager who is struggling to understand what they’re going through, is very much of maybe a goal directed, logical attitude as has been fostered in their career and they’re not really reflecting on the feeling-based issues that have arisen for the person that has witnessed this accident and so they put undue pressure on that worker just to pull their socks up and return to work.”

Poor management of workers recovering from a traumatic experience can lead to a continued traumatisation of the original event.

Dr Wilson said the way the impact of an event is managed could make all the difference.

“Certainly in scenarios where managers have shown empathy, kindness and compassion, it seems at this stage in our research that we’re hearing stories that the extent of the trauma seems to be minimised but where that empathy and kindness is lacking, it seems that more difficulties are arising.”

The study is now recruiting health professionals who can discuss strategies that may have improved the way their traumatic event was managed as well as managers of remote health professionals who can detail support, constraints or resources that led to the way practitioners have been managed alongside any strategies that may improve management in traumatic events.

Dr Wilson said the study could prompt the development of compassionate leadership training for managers that prioritises kindness and empathy and introduces fun and humour into the workplace.

“That way there’s a bit of a balance and I also think very importantly that leaders in health prioritise their own resilience, that they recognise that they are not above feeling and that they prioritise looking after themselves and their own self care strategies so that they’re able to pass those on to their colleagues.”

To get involved in the study email Sue Lenthall - [email protected]. Bush Support Services confidential 24-hour support line can be reached by calling 1800 805 391.


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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