Support group helps healthcare staff thrive

Health care is a rewarding and demanding field. Similar to many occupations, healthcare staff can be at risk for work-related stress, which can lead to burnout or physical illness.

Staff can experience different types of stress, such as those working on the Palliative Care unit, Unit 9Y, at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre.

“It’s hard to work on a palliative care unit because you have a lot of turnaround, little time to grieve and challenging family dynamics because their loved one is dying,” explains Ann Nelson, Chaplain at the Edmonton General. “Staff members requested to have something so that they could talk.”

Lisa Shirley, Unit Manager of 9Y, knew staff needed something ongoing and sustainable. 

“This is a very stressful unit when over 26 patients die in a month,” explains Lisa. “The staff needed a place where they could share and reflect.”

(From left) Ann, Susan and Art prepare their sandwiches and discuss challenges from the previous month.

In September 2016, Ann and fellow chaplain Art Peterson helped develop Third Thursday Thrive (TTT), a support group for all 9Y staff that meets on the third Thursday of every month for one hour. Staff are encouraged to sit down, enjoy soup and a sandwich provided by management, and talk.

“Whatever staff want to talk about, whatever they need to talk about, that’s the agenda, and we facilitate,” says Art. “We’ve had the whole unit staff here throughout the hour.”

Susan Gunraj , Unit Clerk, has never missed a Third Thursday Thrive luncheon.

“It’s not only work-related topics. If we have personal problems, we can share among whoever is here if we feel comfortable,” says Susan. “People listen, not necessarily advise, but just listen. It’s good to have a listening, impartial ear. I think it’s a really good thing we’re doing here and I hope it continues for a long time.”

Because staff on the unit are so busy, they work together so everyone can attend TTT, even if it is only for a few minutes.

“When I’m free, it’s very good for me to escape from my hectic time. I run to TTT for 10 minutes and release, and then go back on the floor lighter,” says Maria Mangahas, LPN.

All are welcome to Third Thursday Thrive. This includes Maria, LPN (left), and Cheryl, Healthcare Aide. Other nursing staff, environmental services, the unit clerk, social workers, pharmacy, occupational therapy, students and doctors also attend.

The leadership team has witnessed staff open up; they face issues as they occur and check in with one another before, during and after shifts.

“The staff have always been very resilient and willing to do what they need to,” says Lisa. “TTT helps staff move on to do the really great work that they do with the next patient and family.”

Art and Ann discussed the benefits of Third Thursday Thrive at the Palliative Care Conference in 2017 and they hope to initiate it on other units in the coming months.

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