To support all members during this time of uncertainty, the Oncology Registrars Forum (ORF) has compiled a cross-Faculty list of wellbeing resources and links to support services. These resources are accessible to trainees and consultants alike, however, some resources are trainee-specific.
The health service is currently strained with increased pressures and all healthcare professionals are doing their best. It is ok to not be ok, and admitting this does not make a doctor any less of a doctor. Check-in with colleagues and take regular short breaks where possible. Eat healthily and get at least six hours of sleep a day. Stay connected with family and friends and do not work on days off. Exercise or take regular walks, even for ten minutes a day because keeping active is proven to reduce stress levels and improve overall wellbeing. Try to avoid less healthy coping mechanisms and be aware of your exposure to the news and social media. Use reliable media resources and refrain from constant streaming.
The box breathing method – a technique often recommended by psychologists in times of stress – can help calm overwhelming feelings of anxiety:
- Exhale slowly to start
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose counting to four in your head filling your lungs: Be aware of your lungs filling.
- Hold your breath for another count to four
- Exhale again, this time to a slow count of four
- Hold your breath for four
- And repeat.
Trusts and hospitals have available support. Some hospitals are running COVID-19 support programmes for all staff. Check your trusts or hospital intranet page for updates. Sources of support include:
- Occupational Health Service (OHS) department
- Educational Supervisor (ES) or Training Programme Director (TPD): Arranging a support meeting
- NHS Practitioner Health: A confidential free support service for doctors with a mental health concern or history of alcohol and addiction. Their website has some useful COVID-19 related resources and is staffed by health professionals that specialise in mental health support for doctors.
- NHS Employers: NHS England and NHS Improvement launched a comprehensive package of support to look after the health and wellbeing of NHS staff.
- Support Now: A confidential staff support hotline staffed by volunteers from the Samaritans, Hospice UK is open from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm.
- Health for Health Professionals Wales: Open Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 17:00 pm
- NHS Education for Scotland (NES): Psychosocial mental health and wellbeing support modules can be accessed via TURAS learn.
- The Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency (NIMDTA) have provided an email address for trainees to get in touch during COVID-19: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are established Facebook support groups for healthcare professionals. A few are noted in the list below. Remember to observe the GMC guidance on social media posting.
- Tea and Empathy: National peer support network started in 2016 with the aim to be compassionate and supportive. This is a public group and is open to all NHS staff.
- Physicians Mums Group UK (PMGUK): A virtual space for UK doctor mums to share support, stories, and experiences. They have links to COVID-19 support subgroups. This is a private group and you need a GMC number to join. The group is open to all women doctors with children and enceinte.
- The Joyful Doctor: A health and wellness website committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of doctors. It is run by an NHS psychiatrist who works with the Practitioner Health Programme in England. There are useful links to helpful podcasts, articles, and online coaching and workshops.
Many app providers such as Headspace, Unmind, Sleepio, and Daylight are currently offering free access to NHS staff until the end of the year.
Organisations and colleges
The following organisations have created COVID-19 wellbeing support webpages. The British Medical Association (BMA) website can be accessed without membership.
- British Medical Association (BMA): 24-hour counseling and peer support service for doctors and students
- Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC): Top self-care tips
- World Health Organisation (WHO): Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- DocHealth: A confidential, not for profit, psychotherapeutic consultation service for all doctors
- Doctor Support Network: Peer support for doctors and medical students with mental health concerns.
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