Hospices are being encouraged to promote the health and wellbeing of their staff in new guidance, which warns of the going pressure faced by the sector.
Aimed at increasing the “resilience” of staff, the guidelines noted that the “nature of the work” in hospices was stressful, as working with dying patients could lead to a sense of chronic anticipatory grief and loss.
It also cited management pressures and changes to working practices, for example hospices caring for more patients with complex heath needs, the growing use of IT in supporting them and the anticipated rise in people wanting to die at home.
“The demands of caring for more people with complex health needs in the future is likely to place additional pressures on hospice staff”
The guidelines have been jointly developed by the charity Hospice UK and the Point of Care Foundation, which promotes Schwartz Rounds – regular multi-professional team meetings where staff can reflect on the emotional aspects of patient care.
The guidance – titled Resilience: Supporting the Hospice Workforce to Flourish in Stressful Times – is designed to encourage hospice leaders to develop a more strategic approach to supporting their workforce, encouraging them to introduce measures to reduce stress and promote wellbeing.
As well as Schwartz rounds, it noted that possible interventions could include promoting self-care to support emotional wellbeing, for example through meditation and arts activities.
It also emphasised that clear communication and good management practices – such as appraisals, objective setting and supervision – could help to mitigate stress.
“Staff cannot deliver excellent care day after day if they themselves are under stress”
In addition, hospice leaders are encouraged to systematically monitor and promote staff wellbeing and regularly review progress, ideally on an annual basis.
Dr Ros Taylor, national director of hospice care at Hospice UK, said: “The hospice sector is facing a time of considerable challenge and change.
“In particular, the demands of caring for more people with complex health needs in the future is likely to place additional pressures on hospice staff,” she said. “This useful guidance will help hospice leaders take early action to mitigate stress and introduce ways of improving wellbeing.”
Joanna Goodrich, head of evidence and learning at the Point of Care Foundation, added: “Hospice staff are famous for their compassion and care – but this work can come at a cost. Staff cannot deliver excellent care day after day if they themselves are under stress.”