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Peer-to-peer support sessions now available for all NHS nurses

Peer-to-peer support sessions now available for all NHS nurses

A programme of peer to peer support sessions are now available for all nurses and midwives at all professional levels until 31 October to give support and advice in tackling the challenges and stresses of leadership in the NHS.

The virtual sessions provided by the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF) and funded by the NHS Leadership Academy, are available to anyone who provides NHS funded care and offer a ‘psychologically safe space to explore leadership challenges’ and to identify future strategies for ‘self-development and self care’.

Although the Florence Nightingale Foundation has been providing these sessions since the beginning of the pandemic, thanks to funding from the NHS Leadership Academy the FNF has been able to make these sessions open access.

With major donation from the Garfield Weston Foundation the FNF was also able to provide this service earlier in September.

Professor Gemma Stacey, FNF deputy CEO, told Nursing in Practice that the sessions offer a space for nurses and midwives to bring leadership challenges and receive support from other professionals while also developing their own coaching skills by helping others.

However, since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, a large number of the challenges nurses and midwives are bringing forward concern ‘challenging staff dynamics’, she said.

Professor Stacey added: ‘High levels of stress and people feeling exhausted by the effects of the pandemic’ are creating more difficult working environment.’

Additionally, Professor Stacey points out that many nurses who were promoted during the pandemic often struggle after they are suddenly ‘have to transition to a new level of leadership’, making these support sessions even more valuable.

In July, NHS data showed that the number of sick days taken by nurses due to stress, anxiety, and depression had risen 20% over two years.

Professor Stacey said many nurses taking on  stressful situations feel that ‘they have to have their armour on’. She added: ‘There is a feeling that there is a professional way of dealing with challenges and so we have to hide away that emotional approach.’

However, the peer-to-peer support sessions aim to offer an open and partially anonymous space to tackle problems in a more open way.

‘Because they are anonymous the relationships are really impactful and meaningful. It is essential because nurses and midwives so rarely get that opportunity.’

Andrew Berrie, interim head of workplace wellbeing at mental health charity Mind, says that nurses ‘were some of those whose physical and mental health was hit the hardest by the pandemic, having to deal with things like death and bereavement, all while putting their own health and wellbeing at risk in order to keep others safe and well.

‘But, even as we come out of the pandemic, we often hear from staff working within healthcare – including nurses – who tell us they have been struggling with their mental health due to issues like long and unsociable working hours, poor pay and excessive workload. We know stigma can prevent healthcare staff from asking for help with their mental health, including fears over being deemed not fit to practice. We want all employers – including the NHS – to support and promoting the wellbeing of all their staff, including those with mental health problems’.

Leadership support sessions are available for all levels of staff next month until 31 October, and are free for nurses and midwives in the NHS.

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