The #WoundedHealer a reflection on #resilience #empathy #Support & #compassion in the #NHS workforce

Last week I attended the Wounded Healer – Helping Each Other to Care in the Modern Health Service conference on Tuesday 15th September 2015. I have a certificate to prove it and everything 🙂

I have spent the whole week reflecting on this conference, which brought together many experts who are passionate about exploring the plights of the wounded healer, and supporting those in need to care compassionately in challenging healthcare workplaces. There were also many who shared their own experiences of being a wounded healer (Including me)! Many had left the profession, moved to another part of the profession, or were still struggling to cope in challenging times. These stories were powerful, moving and also uplifting, as we also heard many stories of recovery. The main challenge of the day was of course focused upon finding new ways to help each other in practice to care compassionately in the way we all want to when we enter the health profession as ‘eager & excited puppies’ wanting to change the world.

This conference was facilitated by the practitioners health programme (PHP). The NHS Practitioner Health Programme is an award winning, free and confidential NHS service for doctors and dentists with issues relating to a mental or physical health concern or addiction problem, in particular where these might affect their work. The conference was also led by the Medical Director of the PHP, Dr Clare Gerada (). Clare is one of the advisors to my own research project, and I always draw so much strength from her knowledge, passion and wisdom. I am sure I will be consulting clare again once my Delphi Study has drawn its conclusions.

One of the highlights for me was meeting Professor Jill Maben, Director of the National Nursing Research Unit at Kings College London. Her work focuses upon the workforce issues facing today’s nursing populations (). Jill disclosed that she had left clinical practice as a result of unhealthy levels of stress in the workplace. She outlined to all of us her own work in discovering how new nursing students are indeed ‘eager & excited puppies’ wanting to change the world. These students quickly then realize that these dreams may never become a reality in the current working cultures of the NHS. As a result, they may choose to give preferential treatment to ‘favored’ patients or ‘poppets’ (Maben et al, 2007). I myself was privileged to finally make contact with such an inspiring research team.

We also heard from Professor Ivan Robertson, Mr Julian Lousada, Mr John Ballatt & Dr Penny Campling who all spoke about the importance of intelligent kindness, compassion for one another in the workplace and about how challenging workplace behavior may actually indicate a deeper pain. How do we cope? Do we deflect our pain on to others?

My thoughts were “Unkind people are unhappy people” and perhaps this is why we are seeing a lack of compassion between colleagues in the workplace. Those who display adverse behaviors need support too. There were certainly some stories of challenging workplace behaviors that suggest that this might be the case.

It was suggested that NHS staff enjoy hard work in their profession of choice. But this demanding work is only satisfying if it is matched by adequate support, resources and control.

This was followed by reflective sessions where professionals shared their own experiences, suggested advice for others and new forms of support. I think I was the only midwife there, and I am still concerned that there is little focus placed upon the well being of other nursing professions. I always find it cathartic to reflect among my own kind. I may have been the only midwife, but we are all one big professional family. This is my tribe. The people that understand and can empathize with the wounded healer. I hope that our insights can propagate among those who need it most.

The workshops that followed included:

Dr Derek Chase – Mindfulness and its Benefits

Dr Jane Marshall- The Addicted Professional

Dr Caroline Elton – Under the White Coat

Dr Peter Ilves and Mr Nigel Praities – GP’s, Resilience and Burnout

Mr Gary Marson, Dr Clare Gerada and Ms Pip Hardy – The Wounded Healer

Ms Debbie Sandford – Schwarz Rounds

Although these workshops largely focused upon the experiences of GP’s & Doctors, I could consistently relate the issues being raised with any other healthcare professional to a higher or lesser extent. The issues remain the same in any healthcare profession.

Along with the health practitioner programme, the  were referred to as a valid source of support for health care professionals. Schwartz Rounds are a multidisciplinary forum designed for staff to come together once a month to discuss and reflect on the emotional and social challenges associated with their jobs. The rounds are designed to offer emotional and social support for staff – not look for clinical outcomes.  Yet my concern is that these rounds require face to face talking and the time to attend a meeting at the planned time and location. I hope that the online intervention I intend to build in order to help midwives in distress can compliment these rounds in supporting all health care professionals in time.

For more information and reflection upon this conference, I would like to direct you to this blog post by Jonathon Tomlinson, as it holds some great references to other reflections and narratives in relation to the wounded healer.

I would particularly like to quote this from his reflective blog “There is a distinction between strength – to carry on regardless, and courage – to admit ones’ vulnerability – which is key to overcoming shame.”

It concerns me that the NHS may indeed be unwell. I reflect lastly upon the NMC Code of professional conduct which states that nurses and midwives must: 8.7 be supportive of colleagues who are encountering health or performance problems. However, this support must never compromise or be at the expense of patient or public safety.  We are in fact duty bound to look after one another for the safety of patients and the public.

So be excellent to each other.


Maben J, Latter S, Clark JM. The sustainability of ideals, values and the nursing mandate: evidence from a longitudinal qualitative study. Nurs Inq 2007;14:99–113. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1800.2007.00357.x