A specialist nurse has created a free online wellbeing resource for frontline health professionals, in a bid to provide staff with the tools they need to look after their mental health during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
Sherezade Ruano, an arrhythmia specialist nurse in London, told Nursing Times she compiled the course out of a desire to support her colleagues and help them manage their emotions in a time of adversity.
“We are not superhumans, although we do work as superhumans”
It comes shortly after Nursing Times launched a campaign called Covid-19: Are You Ok? to raise awareness of the mental health needs of nursing staff during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
The course – Developing Emotional Resilience: Increase your ability to cope with life’s daily challenges – is made up of a series of lectures, quizzes and practical activities to help staff cope with pressures and stresses that are especially heightened under the pandemic.
Ms Ruano, who works at Hammersmith Hospital, said the idea came about after three of her colleagues had approached her for mental wellbeing “tips and tools”.
She then began offering onsite sessions at work for mindfulness, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, before creating the online resource.
“It started with a desire of helping my colleagues and helping those in the NHS,” said Ms Ruano, who created the course in collaboration with psychotherapist Noel McDermott.
She said, based on the training she had received five or six years ago, she was worried that nurses had “never been told how to manage [their] emotions”.
“I’m not sure how it is nowadays in the current training and nursing education, but back in my days, up to five or six years ago, no one really taught you how to deal with your own trauma when you have a patient that is dying or when you have a colleague around you who died,” she told Nursing Times.
Therefore, she said that, given the current Covid-19 crisis, it was an important time to provide staff with the tools they needed to support their mental wellbeing.
“It was just the perfect time to launch a course in resilience – managing your emotions, learning not only how to bounce back from adversity, but also how to reach out, using breathing exercises, using holistic therapies, to manage your emotions and to manage all these crazy things that are happening at the moment”.
“We need to have the tools,” added Ms Ruano. She said it was vital that staff looked after their mental health not only for themselves but also for their patients.
“It is incredibly important as individuals to have the tools to manage our own emotions and [also] to be able to care for others in a much more effective and compassionate way,” said Ms Ruano.
“It is the mental health PPE that is needed at this time”
She added: “There is also an element of conditioning from society – not being able to express our feelings or express our emotions in an effective way and I think that, especially nurses, need to be really aware of it.
“We are not superhumans, although we do work as superhumans,” she noted.
She also highlighted that this type of mental health support needed to run way beyond the coronavirus pandemic to help staff with personal traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or trauma.
“PTSD and trauma can stay both in our bodies and in our minds for 12 months and everyone deals with it in a very different way,” she said.
Ms Ruano said she believed the resource she was offering and other mental health support would be needed “for more than a year after Covid has gone”.
So far, the response from the online resource had been “fantastic” since it was launched last week, she said.
Commenting, Mr McDermott said: “The current project is profoundly important, as it gives easy access to mental health resources which will help prevent illness occurring or if it does emerge, reduce its severity and longevity.
“We know much about what will help prevent PTSD from emerging and help manage the condition if it does and it’s crucial at this time to educate health professionals in these methods.
“It is the ‘mental health PPE’ that is needed at this time,” he added, referring to the ongoing shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gowns.
The launch of the course comes shortly after Nursing Times kicked off a new campaign called Covid-19: Are You OK? to ensure that supporting nurse mental health is on the radar of employers.
The campaign will highlight the mental health pressures and needs of nurses during and after the coronavirus pandemic, and lobby for immediate and long-lasting support.