Taking the Pulse of PSWs

Taking the Pulse of PSWs

Life & Death Matters Post

A reflection by Michelle O’Rourke:

In January, Kath Murray and I met with PSWs from across Canada in a small webinar. Our hope was to create space to “Reconnect and Refresh,” and to talk about how folks were faring after almost two years of living and working during a global pandemic. We wanted to offer a mindfulness exercise to support their spirits as we concluded our time together. 

After taking some informal polls, we found that two thirds of the participants were providing direct care, while one third were there as supporters of PSWs, in management or education. They worked in a variety of areas, including home and community, long term care, and hospice care. When asked about their stress levels now as opposed to the beginning of the pandemic, many noted medium to high levels, with a few low or very high. They shared that their stress levels were similar when compared to the beginning of the pandemic and the current time. However, many stated their present overall feeling of well being was for the most part good or fair.

The rich conversation included comments around how much their workload had increased, and how their workplaces had been affected by COVID restrictions, staffing issues, and apathy. They shared a common feeling of dread in the world today, and how any rose-coloured glasses had come off by now. One member made a statement that was supported by many when she said: “I realized that I am not depressed. I have energy, but I have mental fatigue.”

In sharing what was helping to get through these times, there were many different responses. Some tried to be more conscious of self-care and self-compassion, realizing that it is okay to feel whatever they feel. Others found that talking to friends, family, and co-workers helped. Participants mentioned that taking part in the “Free Webinar Series for PSWs” was very positive.

The gathering ended with time to debrief, and included fun suggestions like monthly draws, writing caring quotes on a white board, and bringing in treats to share. People all agreed that they felt supported by being encouraged and appreciated by their team. Of course, everyone wished for more staff, less stress, and a more manageable workload.

Their resilience and desire to continue to care for those who need them was heartwarming. Some PSWs mentioned that their support system included taking part in a Facebook community at work, or one like the group offered through Life and Death Matters: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LDMcommunity.

A few on the call had registered in the new ONLINE Palliative Care Education Program (PACE for PSWs) and were finding the learning very helpful (for info on the online program visit www.PACEforPSWs.ca). The FREE Webinar Series for PSWs will be continuing, with the next one slated for March 1st.

Consider joining us, and register by visiting www.lifeanddeathmatters.ca

Finding ongoing support and ways to stay healthy is crucial to PSWs, especially as we continue to live and work during these difficult times. PSWs continue to be the backbone of the health care system in many settings, and we desire to continue offering a place for them to feel supported and appreciated.

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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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