We’ve all heard the saying you can’t pour from an empty cup, meaning that for us to effectively take care of others we must first take care of ourselves.
Sometimes this is easier said than done, but for our colleagues on the health frontline, it’s more important now than ever.
That’s why one Christchurch general practice is directing skills and expertise in mental health and wellbeing to support their general practice colleagues as well as their community.
Lynne Henderson, Te Tumu Waiora Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP), has a wealth of knowledge from her background in mental health occupational therapy which she is using to support her colleagues at Piki Te Ora.
“Working through the pandemic has been really tough on the team here, so we bolster their wellbeing so they can continue to support their patients,” said Lynne.
The Te Tumu Waiora model, which puts mental health and wellbeing at the heart of general practice with HIPs and Health Coaches working as part of the general practice team, allows practitioners to adapt support to respond to specific need in a general practice community.
For the practice team at Piki Te Ora this response includes wellness sessions run by Lynne and Health Coach Richard Butfield, as part of a Wellness Club. This covers self-care and wellness activities such as mindfulness, one-to-one sessions and practical advice, guidance, and tools.
For patients it includes welfare check-ins, as well as continuing to provide one-to-one appointments and group sessions at the practice.
“The last few weeks have been really busy. We’ve noticed that people are having a tough time financially – a lot of people have lost jobs over the past two years or are working in jobs that are different to what they want to do.
“We’re reaching out to more vulnerable patients to let them know we can support them directly or put them in contact with non-government organisations (NGOs), food banks, or other appropriate services.
“It’s a bit different than normal but sometimes it develops into a more traditional Te Tumu Waiora intervention.”
This response has included the Te Tumu Waiora team creating specific pathways around COVID-19, including providing education for people who are particularly nervous about the vaccination or the disease, support to book vaccines and help to access vaccination passports.
“This sort of support relieves some of that anxiety around COVID-19 and really frees up the doctors and nurses to focus on providing medical help.”
Throughout the pandemic response the team has flexed and adapted its response.
During the first lockdown they split into two teams to ensure there was consistent access to mental health and wellbeing support. They supported the triage of patients at the front door as well as doing welfare checks with the practice’s most at-risk patients including elderly and disabled patients.
This time round, they’ve created pathways to support the increase they’re seeing in sleep issues and contacting patients who miss their appointments to understand and respond to barriers to care.
Deb Bradshaw, Te Tumu Waiora Clinical Lead for Pegasus Health practices, said “We are supporting our Health Improvement Practitioners to be flexible in the support they offer to their general practice teams in these uncertain times.”
Te Tumu Waiora, which started rolling out across Canterbury’s general practice in 2019, allows for a 'warm handover' which means that a GP or nurse in the general practice can offer someone who is experiencing mental distress or addiction issues the option of seeing the HIP in the same location quickly – often immediately.
The HIPs and Health Coaches provide advice and support for a wide range of reasons – some of the most common reasons are anxiety, stress, depression, sleep issues, family/relationship issues, lifestyle issues (nutrition, smoking), or help with managing long term conditions.