New guidance to help increase resilience of hospice staff

Mar 16, 2015

New guidance aimed at increasing the resilience of hospice staff – to support them as fully as possible to deliver excellent care and meet new challenges such as caring for more people with multiple, complex heath needs – is launched today. 

The guidance, published in the report 'Resilience: A framework supporting hospice staff to flourish in stressful times', has been developed by The Point of Care Foundation, in partnership with national hospice care charity Hospice UK.

The guidance is designed to encourage hospice leaders to develop a more strategic approach to supporting their workforce. It aims to encourage them to identify in good time whether staff are stressed and, if so, introduce measures to reduce this, increase resilience and promote wellbeing in the workplace.

The report identifies three main sources of stress for hospice staff:

  • The nature of the work. Working with patients who are dying can lead to staff experiencing a sense of chronic anticipatory grief and loss
  • Organisational and management pressures. For example, challenges around internal communications and change, as well as the drive to increase capacity in hospice care
  • Changes to ways of working. For example, caring for more people with multiple, complex heath needs, including dementia.

Like staff in other healthcare organisations, the work of hospice employees can be physically and emotionally demanding. They can experience problems such as burn-out, stress and ‘compassion fatigue’, in the course of their work caring for dying people and their families.

Building resilience within the hospice workforce is especially important in light of future challenges facing the sector. Demand for hospice care is expected to rise substantially over coming decades, driven by the needs of the UK’s rapidly increasing ageing population.

Hospice staff also face other stress triggers such as changes to their ways of working. For example, the growing use of IT in supporting patients and the anticipated need for more hospice care in people’s homes will create new opportunities and challenges.

The guidance is based on the best available evidence about ways to both prevent and relieve stress. It contains a helpful checklist for hospice leaders and series of potential interventions. However, it recognises there is no one approach and actively encourages hospice boards and chief executives to determine what will be most effective for their organisation. 

Possible interventions include Schwartz Rounds – regular multi-professional team meetings where staff can reflect on the emotional aspects of patient care – and promoting self-care to support emotional wellbeing, for example through meditation and arts activities. The report emphasises that clear communication and good management practices (such as appraisals, objective setting and supervision) can help to mitigate stress.

Hospice leaders are encouraged to systematically monitor and promote staff wellbeing and regularly review progress, ideally on an annual basis. 

Dr Ros Taylor MBE, 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 and volunteers.

“This useful guidance will help hospice leaders take early action to mitigate stress and introduce ways of improving wellbeing to enable their workforce to flourish and embrace new challenges. Supporting hospice staff effectively not only makes good management sense, leading to less turnover and sickness, it will also have a very positive impact on patient care.”

Joanna Goodrich, report author and 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. It is important to remember that stress can be mitigated, even in times of change, by good management. We are really pleased to have done this work for Hospice UK which we believe will help hospice managers to better support their staff.”

Notes to Editor

  • You can download a copy of the report. The report has been supported by Allianz, one of Hospice UK’s corporate partners.
  • Demand for hospice care is expected to surge over the next 10-15 years, driven largely by the UK’s ageing population. Increasing numbers of people are living to a much older age, many with multiple, complex health conditions.
  • The challenges facing the hospice workforce were identified by the former Commission into the Future of Hospice Care in its final report published in 2013.
  • The number of people aged 80 or over is projected to more than double by mid-2037 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

About Hospice UK

  • Hospice UK is the national charity for hospice care and the only membership body for organisations providing hospice care. We support and champion the work of more than 200 of these organisations across the UK.
  • Hospices, and other organisations which provide hospice care, offer vital care for people with terminal or life-limiting conditions and also support their families and carers.
  • For further information about hospice care visit our website www.hospiceuk.org or follow us on Twitter @hospiceukPA.
  • Get all the latest news from the hospice and palliative care sector, as well as patient stories, on ehospice UK at: www.ehospice.com/uk This service is managed by Hospice UK. You can also follow ehospice news on Twitter at @ehospicenews

About the Point of Care Foundation

  • The Point of Care Foundation is an independent charity dedicated to improving patients’ experience of care and increasing support for the staff who work with them.
  • We provide evidence and resources to support health and care staff in the difficult work of caring for patients.
  • We believe a truly patient-centred approach – focussed on listening,  understanding and responding to the needs of the whole individual – is essential to the delivery of the best possible quality of care.
  • For further information about our work please visit our website www.pointofcarefoundation.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @pointofcarefdn.

Media enquiries

Creina Lilburne, Communications Manager at The Point of Care Foundation on: 020 7637 7252 or at creinalilburne@pointofcarefoundation.org.uk. Out of hours on 07941 156 827.

Suzanne Stevenson at Hospice UK on 020 7520 8296 or by email at s.stevenson@hospiceuk.org

Or Stephen Clark on 020 7520 8224 or s.clark@hospiceuk.org

For out of hours media enquiries please call 07881 940 318.

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