National seminar highlights need for further frontline support

A not-for-profit national seminar held on Tuesday 25th May has highlighted the need for more emotional and psychological support for frontline practitioners.

54 frontline practitioners, including doctors, social workers, psychotherapists, counsellors, psychologists, early years professionals, social care and family support workers, gathered on-line to pause and reflect on the impact their work is having on them.

The ‘Reconnecting with the heart of frontline practice’ one-day virtual seminar explored the roles of humility, vulnerability and compassion in frontline practice.

The seminar was one of a series of initiatives by an alliance comprising Ag Eisteacht,  SHEP (The Social and Health Education Project) and Dr Nicola O’ Sullivan, an independent social care consultant.

All three have a shared interest in frontline practitioners’ health and wellbeing.

Dr Nicola O’ Sullivan said: “Our second national seminar has taken place against a backdrop of a very challenging and difficult 18 months, compounded by the recent collapse of HSE and Túsla IT systems, which I can see in my work has undermined the already very complex and difficult work in these organisations and has really landed heavily with staff teams.

“It is vital that they are given time and space to think about how their work is impacting on them.

“It is an essential task for frontline practitioners to contain the anxiety and vulnerability of those in their care, and that can be hard to sustain. We know that many in frontline professional roles are often so busy responding to competing and complex service demands that they find it hard to get in touch with that fatigued part of themselves. The word ‘resilience’ is often associated with frontline caring roles, but resilience is not located in the person alone; it is in their relationship with their organisation, community and in the systems they navigate daily.”

Feedback from attendees has shown that 100% said that having a space to think about their work is important to them.

Jim Sheehan from SHEP, said: “Our intention for this second national seminar was to create a supportive space where we could come together to connect with each other and deepen our understanding of what it means to be truly engaged in values-based, heartful practice.”

Guest speaker, Dr Tim Dartington, said: “We are all caught up in dynamics we don’t understand, so thinking together about difficult stuff is essential to surviving and doing our work well.  Making the space and time for reflective practice is crucial to being effective as practitioners and managers.”

As well as this one-day seminar, the collaborative group is offering shorter, reflective spaces to support frontline practitioners ahead.

The next event will be on 5th October when Dr Colm O’ Connor will explore the role of imagination and compassion in frontline work during a two-hour on-line presentation.

Dr Maeve Hurley, CEO of Ag Eisteacht, said: “We feel that is essential to create regular ‘touch points’ so that practitioners can take time out to think about how they are feeling so that they can feel sustained and supported in their work.

“Our hope is that this seminar and our other series of initiatives will help to raise awareness of this important issue and stimulate a national conversation about what more we can do in Ireland to provide emotional and psychological support to our frontline practitioners.”

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General Info

Date Entered/Updated
1st Jun, 2021
Expiry Date
15th Jun, 2021