Wellness and resilience

Emergency medical providers and rescue teams can be exposed to extraordinary amounts of workplace stress. Our “office” is often filled with emotionally-charged, high-stress situations associated with fear, pain, suffering and death.

The mental and physical demands of challenging work conditions can have negative effects on all members of the team. Without appropriate support in place, this has the ability to significantly affect our personal and organisational wellbeing, and therefore our ability to provide early, safe, optimal patient care. Additionally, workplaces that prioritise mental health have been shown to have better engagement, reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, greater morale, higher job satisfaction and - within health organisations - enhanced patient outcomes.

It is not always possible to remove or modify our industry stressors (we do not have control over the situations our patients find themselves in). Therefore, it is crucial that we provide our people with the tools they need to build resilience and nurture wellness at both individual and organisational levels.

To address the needs of our organisation Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust’s Wellbeing and Resilience initiative was developed.

In December 2018, Dr. Louise Park was appointed as the Clinical Lead for Wellness and Resilience.

This was followed by the development of a Wellness Working Group, comprised of members representing all disciplines within ARHT.

Summary of strategy and progress to date:

  • Appointment of Clinical Lead for Wellness and Resilience Dec 2018
  • Development of wellness working group February 2019
  • Representation from all disciplines within ARHT
  • Regular communication via face-to-face meetings and emails
  • Assessment of the wellness needs of ARHT
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Direct feedback and contribution from crew and working group
  • Access to a clinical psychologist, with a shift away from consultations “as needed”, to a more proactive and preventative approach of encouraging at least annual check-ups by all crew members
  • Development and implementation of multiple initiatives to meet a wide range of employee wellness needs
  • Peer support network
  • Development and coordination
  • Education/training under guidance of clinical psychologist Julian Reeves
  • Regular meeting attendance as peer supporter
  • Knowledge of escalation criteria and appropriate avenues for extra support for crew members
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Occupation health advisor
  • Collaboration with nutrition and fitness experts
  • Weekly deliveries of fruit to Ardmore base
  • Thermal, noise and light-controlled sleeping quarters and encouragement of napping culture
  • Café L’affare sponsorship deal to provide ready access to caffeine to combat fatigue
  • Physical fitness
  • Establishment of Ardmore base gym through collaboration with Industrial Athletic, with access to weights and cardio equipment
  • Collaboration with Massey Aquatic Centre to provide crew use of facilities, including 25m indoor pool, 50m outdoor pool and sauna
  • Headspace corporate subscription
  • Cognitive conditioning program
  • Optimization of performance under pressure
  • Facilitation of ARHT endorsement of a new charity organization Te Kiwi Maia, which has been founded this year with the aim of supporting all EMS services in New Zealand
  • Enhancing organizational culture through various community and social activities
  • Crew sporting/adventure trips
  • Group blood donations
  • Team chopper challenge fundraising events
  • Regular social catch-ups to foster team bonding
  • Support of crew members following critical events
  • Assistance with planning of crew debriefs
  • Support to individual crew members via formal and informal channels

Future initiatives:

  • Support families/whanau of ARHT employees
  • Development of ARHT network for families
  • Enhancement of organizational cultural responsiveness and education
  • Liaison with communities across the Northern region of New Zealand
  • Support pre-hospital and retrieval trainees
  • Development of mentoring program for duration of fellowship