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27th June 2014

Handling the Stress of Care

Elderly woman with the young doctorsA survey conducted by the Royal College of Nursing last year revealed some shocking, but perhaps not too surprising results (Beyond breaking point? A survey report of RCN members on health, wellbeing and stress RCN 2013). More than half the staff polled said stress at work had made them unwell. The health and social care sector is a stressful environment in which to work. In an era where financial pressures are increasing workloads, how we handle those stresses is becoming increasingly important.

The importance of supervision

No-one goes into care work thinking it’s going to be stress or anxiety free, so we have to accept that stress will be there; that’s part of the job. The key is to create a working environment that can respond healthily to those pressures, and the key to that is an environment where effective supervision is expected and provided. In a busy and hectic working day, time for supervision is sometimes regarded as a luxury that has to be dispensed with to give more time to get on with the day-to-day practicalities. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider some of the consequences of having no supervision of staff:

  • Nowhere for staff to sound off constructively about their work (apart perhaps from taking their thoughts home)
  • Staff working in isolation with no leadership, perhaps making risky or bad decisions
  • Some staff being left behind in terms of training and policy awareness

Guiding the supervisor

So how does supervision help? At its simplest level, supervision is the over-seeing of work being done. However, supervision is so much more than watching over what workers are doing. The opportunity for the worker to think and talk about how they feel about their work, and how service users and their families might also be feeling, is crucial in guiding our development as workers. The opportunity for reflection is often quoted as the most important part of supervision. A guide produced last year by the Social Care Institute for Excellence identifies four elements in providing effective supervision.

  • Using supervision to guide the worker in developing skills in their day to day work
  • Giving social and emotional support and strength to the worker to do the job
  • Creating a trusting relationship between worker and supervisor
  • Giving constructive feedback to the worker on how they’re doing the job

You can download the guide from:

If you or a relative of yours was going into residential care wouldn’t you want to be re-assured that the staff received effective supervision?

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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