Arts-based initiatives: vital to the positive mental wellbeing of NHS workers

Drawing on ideas and techniques used in the arts sector, executive director Jo McLean explains how Performing Medicine has supported the mental health and wellbeing of the NHS workforce throughout the pandemic.

Healthcare professionals have faced sustained, intense pressures from working in an environment hit by the major shock of Covid-19, resulting in a rising number of staff experiencing work-related stress, anxiety and burn out. These pressures have taken a significant toll on exhausted NHS staff, impacting mental health and wellbeing, which is reflected by an increase in staff absences.

The mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff is high priority; it is vital to ensure that our workforce is in a strong position to continue delivering patient care, and vital to the future efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare system.  At Performing Medicine, our focus is to drive transformation and change in this area; to demonstrate the valuable role of arts-based initiatives for the workforce in a healthcare environment.

The arts and health sector has provided much-needed support throughout the pandemic, providing mental health and wellbeing support and resources to many NHS teams.  Today Performing Medicine associate artists continue to deliver high impact sessions to help NHS organisations take positive action to ensure the mental wellbeing of their teams in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Throughout our 20 year history of working in the sector, Performing Medicine has built robust partnerships with NHS organisations using arts-based approaches for creative healthcare training and research programmes.  Our unique work uses ideas and techniques from the performing and visual arts to support more than 18,000 health professionals and medical students with practical skills; to use their bodies and voices for effective communication and to better look after themselves and their colleagues.

Our unparalleled training courses are designed to allow clinical and non-clinical staff to learn together, with content to challenge existing mindsets.  Key topics include:

  • Managing stress
  • Self-care
  • Effective communication
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Working in PPE
  • Team building
  • Presentation skills and presenting online

Focus on:  staff mental health programmes

Our highly interactive workshops empower staff to cope better with work-related stress, and help staff deliver compassionate care, using techniques that are likely to be new to many whilst creating engaging experiences for everyone.

Our recent work with Swansea Bay University Health Board led to an increased awareness  into the importance of self-care for the workforce, and highlighted the impact that staff’s own wellbeing, non-verbal behaviour, pace and posture has on other people.

During the pandemic our workshops have been delivered virtually, and as restrictions begin to lift, delivery of face-to-face sessions is commencing, where appropriate, along with continuing online sessions to fit around the schedules of busy teams.

Focus on: Social prescribing workforce development programmes

Our newly developed workforce development training programme was piloted in Southwark and Merton and focuses on how arts and culture can play a key role in healthcare and social prescribing.

The programme supports this complex, cross-sector workforce to develop understanding, as well as practical skills to help foster better communication with each other as well as with the people being referred.

Due to the success of the pilot, the programme is ready to be rolled out nationally, and Performing Medicine welcomes new collaborations across social prescribing; using our skills and knowledge to help everyone involved work together more effectively.

Focus on: Free mental health and wellbeing resources

Developed specifically for those working in a healthcare environment, Performing Medicine has a suite of free resources.

Recovery Room guides healthcare workers through a series of movements that can be completed individually to help refocus and reenergise, and all you need is a chair!

From advice on orientation and spatial awareness, and non-verbal communication, to breathing techniques and body-scans, ‘Coping with PPE’, developed for University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), addresses the issues around wearing PPE.  It includes tips from professional actors and performers, including War Horse and Star Wars, who are used to wearing heavy restrictive costumes, masks, puppets, animatronics, and prosthetics.  

NHS Bespoke programmes

Co-designed by the Performing Medicine team who is passionate about the sector, directly with individual healthcare organisations, our bespoke programmes are made to match your specific environment and include courses, one-to-one coaching, forums, and drop-in staff wellbeing sessions.

Forums: bringing the arts world to healthcare

Our forums accommodate staff groups of up to 500.  These bespoke interactive scenarios draw on research and interviews with staff to create situations performed by expert actor-facilitators. NHS staff teams are an active audience, and are invited to stop the action, respond and modify behaviour to influence outcomes. This type of learning experience is a non- threatening and unique way to encourage staff to become actively involved with a challenging ‘real-life’ situation where they can replay different approaches to test outcomes.  This technique is a highly effective means of support during times of uncertainty and disruption.

Experts in the field of arts-based initiatives in healthcare, Performing Medicine, an initiative founded by charity Clod Ensemble, provides art-based training programmes to support the mental health and wellbeing of the NHS workforce, driving recovery from the pandemic.

To find out more contact us today or visit our website.

020 77490555

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