HSCP Response During Covid-19

In acknowledgement and huge appreciation of the approximately 17,000 Health and Social Care Professionals who have given so much of themselves in meeting the needs of our population during the pandemic, we are delighted to share this HSCP poster.

The poster documents key work contributed by HSCP over the past eight months.

It is also intended that the format will raise visibility on the work of the HSCP workforce group as part of the collective health services response during this time. 

The poster, shared widely by email, also included a larger template which is suitable for printing to be displayed as needed. If you have not received the email, please contact us at hscp.nationaloffice@hse.ie.

This Blog was submitted by Mary Samuel, HSCP Development Manager on behalf of the National HSCP Office.

Journey to the Teledactyl?

In the wake of COVID-19, we have all adjusted our ways of working. Some Health & Social Care Professional (HSCP) services were in a position to turn to Telehealth using telephone and video to maintain service levels, keep up with demand for services and keep themselves and service users safe.

So is the concept of Telehealth new?

No, in fact as early as 1879, a Lancet article talked about using the telephone to reduce unnecessary visits to the doctor’s office.  In the 1920s, a magazine Science and Invention put forward the idea that doctors would use television and microphone and look after their patients via a “teledactyl” “a device with appendages that would respond to remote manipulation by the physician, allowing the doctor to feel his patient, as it were, at a distance.”

One of the most famous uses of hospital-based telemedicine took place in the late 1950s where a closed circuit television link was established between the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute and Norfolk State Hospital to facilitate psychiatric consults. No surprise that it was space research that made improvements and NASA first began performing physiologic monitoring over a distance in the ‘70s.

HSCP use of Telehealth – HSCP TH Survey

What you told us in a snapshot in time in April this year

  • In April, 18% of HSCP had no experience of using telephone or video as part of their clinical work

– It is hoped that with access to supports such as webinars, training, communities of practice, equipment & licence roll out, HSCP will be empowered to give video enabled care a go!

  • Only 3% of HSCP were using video enabled care pre COVID-19

– We anticipate that this will have increased by now and look forward to hear information from the Video Enabled Care Healthcare Professional Survey

  • Just 21% of HSCP felt very or completely confident in using video consultations as part of their work.

– It would be interesting to take a snapshot at this point, six months on to assess any change … Supporting materials are under development.

So why does it matter?

HSCP who took up video enabled care were impressive in their ability to adapt at speed. Perhaps what amazed us even more, though, was how well service users embraced this new approach. Patient choice must be key going forward. Users of services cannot be expected to travel and leave work for every health problem when they manage most of their daily lives digitally. Service users deserve to have a choice.

In the recent physiotherapy webinar , it was heartening to hear colleagues say they will definitely keep this mode of delivery in their arsenal and how one of the many benefits of video enabled care is patient empowerment towards self-management – all done while keeping patients and frontline workers safe through reduced community contact and transmission.


Indeed, perhaps the most endearing benefit from telehealth is how it strengthens rapport with our patients – seeing them in their pyjamas, “meeting” dogs and cats, and feeling amazed after a successful video consult session with a 90-year old.

Some of the benefits to the Health Services and by extension, to the populations identified are:

So we urge HSCP to seek out opportunities for video enabled care, access training, link with colleagues and join the community of practice that is emerging. Sustaining this new way of working will need to be underpinned by HSCP feeling competent and confident in use of Telehealth. Let’s keep abreast of the changes that are happening in so far as possible and avoid a Foil Arms and Hog “The Online Doctor” scenario!

Will we ever reach the Teledactyl?

Perhaps not but do we need to?

Surely, the measure of success will be when telehealth is simply seen as one way of delivering care, instead of separate from other interventions, and when it is embedded into workflow with service user choice and HSCP confidence & competence as central components.

We cannot underestimate the value in the ongoing surveys being completed by universities, professional bodies and our HSE colleagues. We need you, the HSCP voice, to continue engaging in these forums so that you can help us understand clinicians’ and service users’ experience and feedback in order to shape the future design of services.

One thing is certain – Telehealth is here to stay. The only thing we as HSCP need to figure out is how to continue to improve telehealth services for our patients and ourselves.

If you would like to share your work in Telehealth, please join the conversation below.

This Blog post was written by Marie Byrne and Siobhán Keohane, Telehealth Project Officers in the National HSCP Office.

Healthcare Education in the Time of COVID-19

The stark reality of COVID-19 hit as I, along with my classmates, were completing our final clinical placement, a moment that is usually seen as the beginning of the end of your physiotherapy degree.

Looking back on college in the time of this pandemic, there were definitely positives and negatives.

  • Commute time was drastically reduced, affording students greater free time in both the morning and evening.
  • Another positive for me was the availability of lectures online. This can only be seen to increase accessibility for students, especially those with disability/illnesses that may not be able to attend in-person lectures as regularly or with the same ease as others. 
  • A definite drawback for me was the reduced level of human interaction, especially in the final few weeks of college from both a social and academic point of view. There was no ability to have so-called “water cooler conversations”, to bounce ideas off your peers or to ask for help with something you’re struggling with.
  • As someone, who, at the best of times found it difficult to stay focused in lectures,  background distractions at home can be challenging. Having access to a physical library again in a central location will make it easier for remote learning if needed.

Another issue to consider is that of international students. Two of my classmates attended lectures at ungodly hours of the morning from the west coast of Canada. This was subsequently mitigated with recordings being made available online for later viewing. With physical attendance likely to be reduced in the future, will there be a reduction in the number of international students who begin courses in Ireland? And what impact will these changes have on non-EU student fees which are already far higher than their EU and Irish counterparts?

Can I see remote learning becoming a permanent fixture in Ireland? Definitely. I think the benefits of accessibility and inclusivity far outweigh any negatives deemed to be associated with remote learning. That said, heretofore, healthcare degrees have relied on face-to-face teaching, particularly for the practical elements of the training. Remote learning will not meet this need.  

The issue of clinical placements being organised in a time where Covid-19 is still circulating is one that I am sure has caused many headaches and will cause many more for the faculty. One has to imagine that over the next year, while healthcare and education changes from face to face to ‘blended’ versions, clinical placements will need to be reimagined.

Virtual physiotherapy appointments were, and still are, widespread during the height of the pandemic, alongside pulmonary rehabilitation and exercise classes. If this is to become part of our profession’s future, surely it is vital that these skills are learned and practiced while undergoing training as undergraduate students? 

Elite sport has been allowed since early in June this year. Given the routine testing of athletes across many sports in Ireland, it is likely that any outbreaks will be highly controlled, reducing the risk of spread. Might we see a higher number of physiotherapy students undertaking clinical placements in elite sporting contexts?

It is likely that the fallout from this pandemic will stretch beyond case numbers and deaths and there will be a large cohort of people who experience reduced physical capacity for many months. Should physiotherapy and other HSCP students expect to have larger placement allocations to the rehabilitation of these people and should placement allocations be more focused on the treatment/rehabilitation of Covid-19 given the world these students will be graduating into?

Clearly, in the coming months, many questions will need to be answered on the student experience of education in the time of Covid-19.

This Blog post was written by David Power, Physiotherapy graduate from RCSI.

2020: Stand Out Memories For Me

When we look back on 2020 in years to come, what will be our stand out memories? There will be a feature length episode of Reeling in the Years, that’s for sure! And there will be sad reminders of how many people lost their lives to COVID-19, how difficult it was for those working in healthcare and other essential services, as well as the fears and anxieties of those who contracted the disease and those cocooning at home. 

But I think there will also be positives that we can take from this time, and here are some of mine:

  • We can implement change very quickly when we put our minds to it. Keeping our patients’ needs at the forefront of our minds and acting with a shared purpose and sense of urgency have proved the perfect conditions for pivoting from predominantly face to-face ways of working to largely digital methods.  From virtual consultations to team meetings and education sessions, HSCP adapted and embraced these new ways of working with a focus on solving problems and overcoming obstacles. 
  • There have been significant advances in digital across the health service in recent months. Initiatives that would ordinarily take years to implement have been accelerated across the health sector.  This has included the rollout of telehealth – one of the recommendations of Slaintecare – and I hope that this is something that we evaluate, improve and continue to embed in our practice from triage to therapy beyond this pandemic.  Other initiatives including electronic transmission of prescriptions to community pharmacies, Healthlink-enabled ordering of COVID-19 swabs, remote monitoring of pulse oximetry and contact tracing apps are great examples of technology helping us to work more efficiently. As someone currently undertaking an MSc in Digital Health Transformation, it has been inspiring to say the least.
  • There has been much greater recognition that it really does take a village to run our healthcare services with the important contribution made by all highlighted and appreciated across society.  In particular, fellow HSCP medical scientist colleagues have been recognised for the essential role they have played during the pandemic.  They excelled over a very short period of time to develop and implement, at scale, the new test required to diagnose cases of COVID-19.
  • The teamwork and willingness to help, both within and across institutions and healthcare settings, overcoming traditional boundaries and with people sharing their experiences and solutions to common problems must be preserved into the future.
  • The collective leadership shown in the initial months was evident at all levels of the health service – everyone working together, motivated by a common purpose and taking responsibility for the service as a whole during this pandemic.  We have seen that for leaders to be effective at this time of great uncertainty, we need clear, consistent and regular communication, empathy and compassion for  staff and public and measured interventions that are revised and adapted with emerging evidence and as the situation evolves.   

“By working compassionately, courageously and honestly, leaders can support and care for their staff so that they can save thousands of lives across our communities”

Michael West, The King’s Fund

Paul Reid has spoken of looking at how we deliver health services through a new lens now.  While my observations are not all necessarily new, sometimes it takes a global pandemic to see what was always there.

Himalayas visible in the distance in India (April 2020)

What will you remember most from this period? Let us know below.

This Blog was written by Claire Browne, HSCP Integration Lead, CHI.

The Impact of Covid-19 on a Disability Service – Part Two

Our first Blog described our experience of navigating the early stages of the pandemic and the critical work streams that needed to be established to enable us to begin responding to the challenges of COVID-19.

Now, as we move from the initial response into the phase of longer-term accommodation and slow easing of restrictions, our focus is moving to recovery and planning for the safe and gradual re-opening of day, school and clinical services and of residential houses for visitors.

We are also conscious of the need to remain vigilant and flexible, should there be a resurgence of Covid-19 during the reopening phases, which would require expedient and appropriate adjustment of our service response.

Work is underway to recommence essential face-to-face clinical supports, in line with public health guidance. Clinics, assessments and reviews are being arranged for those who most urgently need these.

It is clear that a multi-faceted approach to clinical services delivery will be required for the foreseeable future, in order for safe and effective clinical supports to be delivered to the children and adults who use our services.

That approach will need to incorporate a mixture of phone contact, video calls, face-to-face interventions and online training modules and other remote approaches.

Alongside the resumption of clinical services, the day support services that have been stalled are now also in a process of phased reintroduction. Outdoor and remote supports are expanding throughout the summer and planning is underway for a gradual increase in face-to-face and in-building day support hours as we move into the autumn.    

The realities of the longer-term effects of and learning from the pandemic mean that some of the ways we have ‘always done things’ will need to change. Some of the lessons we have learnt during this time and the new ways we have begun to work will be worth holding onto and developing into the future.

In other cases, we will need to find a way back to providing the much-needed supports that are currently on hold for the people we serve and their families. There will be a requirement for ongoing review, audit, research and learning.

New children are being born every week who will need our services and others are growing up, ready to make the transition from school to adult life.  

Now, more than ever, quality services are needed that promote the well-being of people with disabilities and support them to live fulfilling lives.

At St. Michael’s House, we remain committed to that work.

This Blog was written by Eilín de Paor, Clinical Manager for Adult Services & Caroline Howorth, Speech and Language Therapy Manager, St. Michael’s House, Dublin

E-mail: eilin.depaor@smh.ie & caroline.howorth@smh.ie

Twitter: @de_eilin & @HoworthCaroline

The Impact of Covid-19 on a Disability Service – Part One

The past four months have seen inordinate change for the people with disabilities and families who use the services of St. Michael’s House. Widespread closure of schools, adult day and training services and respite have placed huge pressures on individuals and families.

Clinical supports have been altered or ceased. Routines have been disturbed, much needed programmes suspended and contacts with familiar staff and peers restricted and in many cases, stopped altogether.

For the children and adults with intellectual disabilities who we work with, the reasons for these changes are not always understood. This has led to confusing and perplexing times for many.

For those living in our residential houses, the lack of contact with family and friends has brought particular sadness and challenges. For some, it hasn’t been easy to spend so much extra time with housemates when they usually all have other outlets outside the home.

Others are enjoying the extra time in their homes and as providers of day services, this gives us cause to pause and reflect on what these individuals are telling us and whether day service models may need to change into the future.

For the Organisation, keeping our core residential services running has involved reorganising our services and locations, managing the challenges of physical distancing restrictions in our small disperse facilities and being flexible and responsive to the changing needs of those we support, as well as to the impact of Covid-19 on our staff teams.

Staff and management have worked hard to be flexible and have tried to respond to the needs of those we support and their families. However, there have been limitations in terms of what we have been able to achieve and certainly in the level of contact and supports we have been able to maintain for those who normally use our schools and day services.

Many staff have taken on new roles and we have been called on to develop new procedures and services within tight timescales. Some of our main focuses have been:

  • Supporting our frontline staff in their crucial 24/7 work in our residential houses, keeping them and the people who use our services safe and well
  • Facilitating people to understand and ask questions about the changes in their lives – by preparing easy read information, social stories and other communication supports
  • Preparing guidance for staff regarding ethical decision-making during the pandemic. People with disabilities are being asked to have swabs, to self-isolate, to cocoon and accept other restrictions on their daily lives. All of these require our staff to carefully reflect on what we are asking people to do, what their will and preferences are and what other options may be available to them and us
  • Maintaining contact with individuals and families who are at home without day services and schools, through a system of key contacts
  • Ensuring teamwork continues and is enhanced across clinical services, frontline services and management
  • Piloting the provision of single discipline and team-based clinical supports in new ways whilst preserving physical distance e.g. telepractice, online training portals, virtual team meetings and even garden/window visits
  • Supporting staff to take on new roles with appropriate training and induction –  swabbing team, clinicians’ residential relief panel, day to residential frontline staff re-deployment, Covid-19 treatment and rehabilitation roles etc.
  • Upgrading our ICT systems to enable safe and effective remote-working
  • Procuring and managing a stock of appropriate PPE to enable our staff to work safely with the people we support
  • Establishment of an appropriate environment, systems and contingency plans for isolation, treatment and rehabilitation of those we support who contract Covid-19
  • Developing an in-house Covid-19 testing service for those in our residential houses
  • Working with HSE to ensure all our frontline staff are tested and with occupational health regarding contact tracing and managing self-isolation and cocooning requirements for those staff who need to.

This Blog was written by Eilín de Paor, Clinical Manager for Adult Services & Caroline Howorth, Speech and Language Therapy Manager, St. Michael’s House, Dublin

E-mail: eilin.depaor@smh.ie & caroline.howorth@smh.ie

Jack Charlton’s Amazing Act of Kindness

Sitting on board an Aer Lingus flight in January 1996, I noticed Jack Charlton across the aisle from me.

This was a significant flight for Jack, his final, emotional farewell voyage following his retirement as Manager of the Ireland team after nine great years in charge and three unforgettable major tournaments. I resisted the temptation to join the queue for his autograph but was delighted to have a brief encounter when he commented that he liked my hat!

I wasn’t to know then that four years later, I would be privileged to be involved in an amazing and moving act of kindness by Jack towards a patient of mine.

As a young Occupational Therapist working in a Yorkshire hospital, I was treating a man named Frank* who had suffered a brain stem stroke and had an incredibly rare condition called Locked-in Syndrome.

People with locked-in syndrome are conscious and can think and reason but are unable to speak or move. Frank was left with complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles, with the exception of vertical eye movements and blinking. It was necessary to establish whether this eye movement could be used to enable Frank to communicate.

After some experimentation, a light-touch switch was positioned above Frank’s left eyebrow and when this switch was activated by his vertical eye movement, a sound was heard.

To try to create words, the speech therapist and I moved a finger along each letter on an alphabet board and to select his required letter, Frank used his eye movement.

Communication was painstakingly slow and exhausting for him but on one unforgettable day, a very determined Frank succeeded, for the first time, in creating words. He spelled out ILOVEYOU to his wife. It was an incredible and emotional breakthrough.

In the months that followed, Frank experienced many setbacks. He had ongoing medical complications, and during these periods, was unable to engage in therapy.

Over these many months, I got to know Frank so much better … his love of the great Leeds United, Jack Charlton, Ireland and especially fishing in Ireland. And being an Irish lass, he and I formed a great connection.

In that time, I wondered how we could motivate Frank in his efforts to communicate. I thought about Jack Charlton, a Geordie treasure and Frank’s hero, and what it might be like for Frank to communicate with Jack.

I googled Jack Charlton but of course I didn’t find a contact number. I called on my mother in Dublin who somehow managed to contact a senior figure in the Football Association of Ireland who, in the circumstances, was kindly willing to provide Jack’s number on the condition of confidentiality.

Somewhat petrified about the reaction I might get, I called the number. But I needn’t have worried. Jack listened to my unusual request for a visit and without hesitation, agreed to visit Frank on one condition: No press could be involved. I gave him my word and a date was set.

On the morning of Jack’s visit, the hospital was abuzz with excitement and tension, a local idol was on the way. I met Jack, a towering man at the hospital entrance. I must admit I felt more than a little intimidated looking up at him but his warmth and presence soon left me feeling at home with him. It took some time to get through the hospital as people stopped Jack for a word …

I remember bringing him into a quiet room to prepare him for the meeting with Frank. I described how Frank would be sitting in a specialised seating system, with a tracheostomy tube, and that communication would be slow and difficult using an eye switch and an alphabet board system.

But Jack needed no preparation. He told me, in his straight-talking Geordie way, that he was used to visiting patients with motor neurone disease and that there would be no problem.

When we walked into the quiet room on Ward 2, Jack, straight away, lowered his head to ensure his eyes met Frank’s. He then settled into the chair next to Frank where he sat for the following two hours. We facilitated Frank’s communication and together, they covered great ground – soccer, Yorkshire, Ireland, fishing, family.

Jack was inspirational in how he motivated Frank to keep going. And the emotion in Frank’s eyes showed how much the visit meant to him.

My overriding memory of that day was Jack’s generosity of spirit, his genuine interest in Frank, his wife and their lives. As they said their goodbyes, Jack promised to send his autobiography which his wife could read to Frank.

What a true privilege it was to witness Jack’s extraordinary gesture of kindness and to see the love, joy and hope it brought to Frank’s life – one good day, at a time when the good days were few.

You’ll always be remembered Jack. Rest in peace.

*Frank’s name has been changed for confidentiality.

This Blog was written by Alison Enright, Health and Social Care Professions Development Manager, National HSCP Office.

Transitioning to a Virtual Campus

The Experience of the RCSI School of Physiotherapy during the COVID-19 Pandemic

In this blog, we want to share our experience of dealing with COVID-19 in the teaching, learning and assessment of our physiotherapy students.

As a University of Medicine and Health Sciences, RCSI is well known for its international footprint. This, alongside our world-leading expertise in infectious diseases, were significant contributing factors in our rapid response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.

In early February, our infectious disease experts and senior management in RCSI Dublin flagged the potential impact of COVID-19 – as our Bahrain Campus had experienced the effects of COVID-19 some weeks before it became a reality in Ireland.

A Business Continuity Team was established in RCSI Dublin to identify requirements for the college to move to a ‘virtual campus’ as soon as practically possible. IT solutions were put in place at pace, including Blackboard Collaborate for delivering ‘live’ interactive student lectures and tutorials, Speedwell for online assessment, Microsoft (MS) Teams for staff and student meetings, and Office 365 to allow remote access to files for all staff. The IT department provided intensive training for all staff on use of these systems.

As a School, we held numerous meetings to plan and implement RCSI’s strategy of moving to a virtual campus. Our focus was on virtual academic teaching, preparing contingency plans if clinical placements were cancelled, and ensuring clear, consistent student engagement and ongoing personal tutor support.

On Thursday, 12th March, when the government announced that universities were closing from that day, we were well placed to switch to our virtual campus. Students on clinical placement had to discontinue their placements, although placements were already being affected as COVID cases appeared in various hospitals. The remaining practical/clinical skills teaching could no longer be delivered and we had to ramp up our contingency plans for alternative methods of assessment.

Those first couple of weeks felt long and mentally draining as we all moved out of our comfort zone in using Blackboard Collaborate for teaching, coupled with back-to-back remote staff and student meetings.

The students really engaged with the ‘live’ lectures and attendance was excellent across all years. The ‘breakout group’ feature of Collaborate provides an opportunity for student interaction in small groups, whilst the educator moves between the groups to facilitate discussion.

Over the next few weeks, we became more proficient and innovative with this technology. This sketch note summarises well our experience of transitioning to remote learning – thanks to Dr. Ailish Malone who put it together.

With clinical placements no longer possible, students participated in a programme of placement-related activities overseen by the Practice Education Co-ordination team. These included on-line Covid-19 modules and case studies, which focused on placement learning outcomes.

With practical and clinical skills assessment no longer feasible for our end-of-semester assessments, we planned for remote assessment for all years.

We also wanted to expedite our final years’ exams to allow students to register with CORU and enter the workforce as soon as possible. As they had already completed their final clinical placement, all that remained was their final year research protocol and a viva exam, which could be administered remotely.

Our final years successfully completed their exams and received their results on Friday 1st May, five weeks earlier than planned. With the help of our Communications Department, we were delighted to put together this video to celebrate results day.

In this period, we have certainly up-skilled in using technology to enhance the learning experience for our students. While it cannot replace the face-to-face interaction, we see technology playing a significant role in achieving a more blended learning experience in our post COVID environment.

We are very proud of how our students embraced this unprecedented transition to a ‘virtual campus’ and we are now planning for how our programmes can be delivered safely and effectively for the 2020-2021 academic year.

We would like to thank all those who contributed to the successful delivery of our undergraduate and post graduate programmes including academic staff, practice education co-ordinators, clinical tutors and educators, administrative staff, external lecturers, external examiner and our student, academic and regulatory affairs staff.

The biggest thanks to our students for staying engaged throughout despite missing out on so many other aspects of college life. We hope that when the academic year resumes in September, they will return to some degree of a traditional student experience.

This Blog was written by Dr Helen French, Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and Professor Suzanne McDonough, Head of School of Physiotherapy, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Staff Self-Care in the Context of COVID

Many disciplines contribute to the delivery of our Health Services, from primary care to acute hospital care. These include medicine, nursing, health and social care professions and pharmacy.

As a hospital psychologist, I’m acutely aware of the additional ancillary disciplines, such as administrators, cleaners, caterers, porters, IT-experts, and security-personnel that also make invaluable contributions to the effective running of the health service.

Each profession has its own challenges, and rewards, and all of them have been impacted by COVID-19.

In this Blog, I aim to speak to three things: the general well-being of healthcare staff, added stress due to COVID-19 and how we might cope with these demands.

How ‘well’ are we, anyway?

Most of the available data is limited to the well-being of doctors and nurses (not all healthcare disciplines), from other jurisdictions (not Ireland specifically). I’m part of a research group looking to change that.

Nevertheless, the data signals some stark warnings. Doctors and nurses are at higher risk of developing mental health problems, relative to the general population1,2. They are also at an increased risk of developing ‘burnout symptoms’1,3, and are more susceptible to sickness-related work-absences, particularly if working in public sector roles, large organizations, or being in a more junior role4.

Most alarmingly, they’re also at increased risk of suicide, which must say something about the demands of working in healthcare. These issues signal a need to increase support for healthcare workers, and remedy any ‘systemic’ issues that may be contributing.

Is COVID-19 adding additional stress?

Past pandemics have taught us that healthcare staff experience increased distress. What differentiates COVID-19 from other pandemics is its scale and the risk of the ‘system’ becoming overwhelmed.

It has led to unprecedented societal measures, such as lockdown, and public health measures, which have become ‘normal’. Bearing in mind that 30% of all Irish infections have been healthcare workers, we are one of the most affected groups.

Whilst we’ve all been affected to some extent, it’s clear that select subgroups of the health-force have experienced increased levels of anxiety, depressed mood and trauma.

More specifically, approximately 10-15% of healthcare workers report clinically significant distress, particularly those exposed to the frontline, and those at the earlier stages of their careers5.

However, one very interesting study is at pains to point out that baseline rates of poor mental-health are already very high within these healthcare worker cohorts and COVID-19 is only likely to be adding marginally to this6. Food for thought.

How can we cope?

Healthcare workers are capable, resilient, caring individuals with an ability to adapt to challenging environments. It’s possible you are already coping well. What follows is intended to remind us what’s recommended at times of crisis, viral pandemics included.

At an individual level, the aim is to stabilise and mitigate acute distress. One recommendation is to be attuned to your own emotional thermometer and responsive to it when it becomes at risk of getting ‘overheated’, so to speak. Practice relaxation. If you need to, seek the support of someone who’ll listen. Remember, not all problems need to be fixed, some just need to be heard and understood.

One of the most frequently offered pieces of advice by my colleagues was to ‘control the controllables’ and also to ‘switch off’ after one’s shift was completed. Having outside interests is invaluable in this regard.

One practical piece of advice is to remain informed but limit the extent to which you’re attending to news, which generally has a negative slant. If people are working on teams, regular ‘debrief’ sessions are considered helpful, where the focus is on communal support, not forced disclosure.

Some teams also introduced ‘buddy systems’, especially for junior colleagues.  

With word limits against me, I’d finally suggest that framing one’s efforts in a meaningful way is another helpful psychological tactic. Sometimes it’s through adversity and sacrifice that we achieve something greatly significant. This is one of those times.

For those with an interest in additional resources, I’ve provided a couple of useful links below:




  1. Shanafelt TD, Dyrbye LN, West CP. Addressing physician burnout: the way forward.  JAMA 2017;317:901-2
  2. Schernhammer ES, & Colditz GA. Suicide Rates Among Physicians: A Quantitative and Gender Assessment (Meta-Analysis). The American Journal of Psychiatry.(2004) Dec;161(12):2295-302. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.161.12.2295
  3. Ribeiro VF, Filho CF, Valenti VE, Ferreira M et al. Prevalence of burnout syndrome in clinical nurses at a hospital of excellence. Int Arch Med. 2014; 7-22.
  4. Leaker D, & Nigg W. Sickness absence in the UK labour market: Sickness absence rates of workers in the UK labour market, including number of days lost and reasons for absence. Office for National Statistics. (2018). Available online (June 4th 2020): https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/labourproductivity/articles/sicknessabsenceinthelabourmarket/2018
  5. Lai J, Ma S, Wang Y, Cai Z, Hu J, Wei N, et al. Factors Associated with Mental Health Outcomes Among Health Care Workers Exposed to Coronavirus Disease 2019. JAMA Network Open. 2020 Mar 2;3(3):e203976-.
  6. Bell & Wade. Live meta-analysis: Mental Health of Clinical Staff Working in High Exposure Compared to Low Exposure Roles in High-Risk Epidemic and Pandemic Health Emergencies (last updated 2020.05.27). Online open software meta-analysis. Accessed 4.6.20 https://osf.io/knhs3/.

This Blog was written by Dr Damien Lowry, Chartered Member of the Psychological Society of Ireland and Senior Counselling Psychologist in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital’s Psychology Department.

ESD: Our Virtual Transformation

The Early Supported Discharge (ESD) team in Cork provides specialised domiciliary stroke rehabilitation.

As an integrated stroke service, ESD constitutes a vital rehabilitation pathway for stroke survivors facilitating patient flow through acute stroke units in Cork University Hospital, the Mercy University Hospital and St Finbarr’s Stroke rehabilitation unit since starting in 2018.

Continue reading “ESD: Our Virtual Transformation”