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Monday, 18 October 2021
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NHS charities funding helps build resilient staff

COLLEAGUES at The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust who have experienced trauma at work or home during the COVID-19 pandemic will be offered additional professional support from their peers thanks to funding from NHS charities.

NHS staff in Rotherham have risen to the challenge of COVID-19 admirably, with many supporting the Trust by working in different roles, caring for seriously-ill patients on the front line, or going the extra mile to keep the NHS going. Many will have done so while taking on extra caring responsibilities, homeschooling their children and dealing with the challenges of lockdown.

Colleagues who need someone to talk to about their experiences can now access a support network of colleagues who have undergone the Trauma Resilience Management Programme (TRiM) training.

Whilst the Trust had launched a successful TRiM pilot on its Critical Care Unit prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to £27,900 additional funding provided to the Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity by NHS Charities Together, the Trust can now significantly increase the number of trained TRiM practitioners and therefore the amount of support to Trust staff.

Dr Callum Gardner, the Trust’s Medical Director, said:

“We are so proud of all our staff at the Trust for how they have come together in such unprecedented and difficult circumstances. Whether they are a porter, admin staff, a doctor or nurse – everyone has played their part in keeping the NHS going.

“However, we appreciate it has been an incredibly difficult time and we have a moral duty to care for our staff. To be caring and to work together is part of Trust values and we hope by offering access to this kind of peer support, it shows our colleagues that their mental health and wellbeing is really important to us.”

The TRiM programme originated in the UK Armed Forces and supports the mental health and wellbeing of people who have experienced potentially upsetting or traumatic events.

The Trust now has 30 TRiM practitioners, with colleagues taking on the volunteer role in addition to their usual duties. Some TRiM practitioners have existing roles as Freedom to Speak Up Guardians or Mental Health Champions.

They are trained to understand the effects that traumatic events can have on people. They are not counsellors or therapists but can simply be there to listen in confidence, with compassion, and signpost to other support services. Trust colleagues can also talk about work or personal issues affecting their lives.

Dr Gardner added:

“It can be really difficult to ask for help or to admit you’re struggling to cope, especially for clinical staff who feel they should be resilient and robust in stressful situations, but we hope our new TRiM practitioners are well used.

“There are just a few organisations offering this kind of support across the country, so Rotherham is leading the way by providing an innovative solution to the stress and anxiety we know many colleagues are feeling right now across the NHS.

“It’s good for the NHS too as by intervening early on we can help colleagues return to work healthier, happier and more able to cope, rather than them taking time off.”

Sue Rodgers is a trained TRiM practitioner alongside her usual role as a Medical Appraisal and Revalidation Support Manager at the Trust. She said:

“I’ve had three colleagues request support from me so far and it has been humbling to listen to their experiences.

“As a TRIM practitioner I’m not there to solve their problems, but I can listen and help to share the burden of what they are going through. I can reassure colleagues that they aren’t alone in their feelings and that it’s completely normal to have a strong emotional reaction to an upsetting incident or a stressful period in their career.

“One colleague, in particular, was incredibly upset about the combination of a work issue and something very similar at home and therefore needed extra support. They had been working in a clinical setting but not in their usual role.

“They didn’t want to take what was upsetting them home. What they had experienced was traumatic for them but they wanted to protect their family from knowing what they had been through.

“Just being there for someone is incredibly important and simply listening without judgement is really powerful. Access to TRiM is a wonderful thing to be able to offer and we hope in future we can do so more intuitively, particularly to frontline staff such as junior doctors and nurses who have perhaps witnessed their first cardiac arrest or death. Talking about experiences like this early on is a great way to build resilience and to protect our colleagues’ health and mental wellbeing.”

Zoe Noon is a TRiM practitioner alongside her role as Foundation Programme Administrator for Post Graduate Medical Education at the Trust. She is the first point of call for newly qualified doctors.

She said:

“We were very conscious that our newly qualified doctors have been working in stressful circumstances due to Covid-19. They are new to medicine and have been in the thick of it just eight months into their career. I’m used to speaking to people in times of need, but the training has made sure I’m in the best position to help.

“One colleague’s experience particularly resonated with me as they wanted to talk about a personal issue which was also affecting their mental health and ability to cope at work. Although this colleague worried that it was trivial at a time when so many people were poorly with coronavirus, it was incredibly upsetting for them. They were mourning the loss of an important life event.

“I helped this colleague talk it through and they felt more positive, less like a coiled spring, and more able to get back to work. I was an independent, confidential listening ear and someone who could help them feel able to cope. It shows that TRiM works for staff who have experienced something traumatic in their personal lives, as well as those with work issues.”

Additional funding for the TRiM programme was provided by the Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity following a pilot project which offered staff from Critical Care access to trained practitioners.

The overall programme will be evaluated by the Trust in conjunction with Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Sciences Network and the Patient Safety Translational Research Centre at the Bradford Institute of Health Research.

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