Mental health and wellbeing a key concern for Victoria’s healthcare workforce

September 18, 2020

On Wednesday, the VHA hosted its second forum exploring the COVID-19 responses across the Victorian healthcare system. The forum focused on the health workforce experience of the pandemic and the health and wellbeing impacts being experienced now and into the future.

The VHA was pleased to share early findings from its member consultations about the impact of the pandemic on the Victorian health workforce. Hannah Neven-Gorr, the VHA advocacy lead, shared findings related to both the operational challenges such as surge workforce capacity, issues with sourcing back-fill and accrued leave through to the mental health and wellbeing of staff experiencing heightened levels of burnout and fatigue.

Attendees also heard from health leadership consultant Linda Betts who spoke about the evidence and international learnings emerging on the impact of pandemics on the health workforce. Experiences not dissimilar to Victoria. The presentation included rapid review evidence about the impact on the workforce and emerging evidence about best-practice biopsychosocial programs for workforce support and recovery.

Dr Sara Holton, Research Fellow at the Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research – Western Health Partnership presented research findings on the psychosocial impacts of the pandemic on the workforce across Victorian health services and the Western Health Workforce Wellbeing Program. Wimmera Health Care Group CEO, Catherine Morley, and Board Director Meg Dennison, PhD, who is also a Clinical Psychologist, presented on the psychological wellbeing response to support their staff now and into the future.

Attendees then had an opportunity to share learnings about the health and wellbeing programs and initiatives being implemented at their services. Key themes that emerged from these discussions centered around the:

  • importance of evidence to develop best-practice health and wellbeing initiatives
  • need to use different mechanisms to communicate with staff including traditional platforms such as email through to informal WhatsApp and Facebook groups
  • need to address holistic biopsychosocial needs of the workforce including integrating alternative therapies such as meditation and yoga into programs and offering ‘quiet and reflection’ rooms as well as addressing ‘life-skills’ gaps emerging due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic such as preparing meals and completing online shopping
  • role of peer-to-peer support and building internal capacity to identify the needs of colleagues
  • need to embed and build technological capability to deliver health and wellbeing initiatives to increase accessibility of supports.

The VHA will use insights shared throughout this forum to inform its work related to workforce recovery and opportunities to support the workforce now and into the future.

Photo: Photo essay by Phoebe Powell with 52 people from across the Biomedical Precinct who have played a role in keeping Melbourne safe during the pandemic.