Peer Support: Prioritising Mental Health for Professionals
Working within healthcare, either within mental or physical disciplines, can take its toll on any professional; seasoned or not. The nature of our roles as clinicians, professionals and advocates gives us a platform to strive for clinical excellence in patient care and support. However over time this can conversely drain our personal resources and energy.
The prevalence of burnout and stress-related psychiatric disorders among UK doctors and health professionals has been repeatedly shown by research, and the link between this and potentially negative impacts on healthcare provision is similarly well documented1.
When the first COVID-19 lockdown hit in March 2020, the pressure on many health professionals across disciplines rose to an unprecedented level. The subject of mental health in regard to health care professionals has perhaps for the first time been documented so candidly within the media. However, as many of us will know, this is not a new subject within our respective professions.
When working in the structure of public health organisations, clinical supervision acts as one element of a professional safety net. The opportunity to discuss casework, evaluate quality, encourage emotional processing and maintain competence and capability. It envelops you, the professional, at the centre of this conversation. With sessions planned monthly and as part of your continued professional development; clinical supervision can act as an oasis.
Not only seen as best practice, it is the safe space where you as a clinician can open up with confidence with another professional to both discuss and reflect on your work in a very structured way.
But What Happens When You Decide to Open up Your Own Practice?
The thought of going it alone can be an exciting part of any clinician’s career. Like a blank canvas, you can create your very own space, devoting your time, expertise and experience directly to your clients. The appeal of specialising in a specific area, or moulding your work around your own unique schedule in order to achieve a better work life balance can be a big draw. Breaking free of the constraints of existing clinic restraints, thresholds in order to access care and subsequent layers of management can feel like the breath of fresh air you’ve been craving for professionally.
When you decide to take a step towards clinical independence, there is a tsunami of tasks that can feel overwhelming. From setting up your clinic, marketing and social media to how you receive new referrals. You may have even decided to dip your toe into the private pool and split your time between your private practice and the familiarity of your existing patient facing role. If this is the case, you will still have access to scheduled clinical supervision, but this will be focused on the work that you do within that existing clinic space. There are no blurred lines when it comes to the nature of your sessions. These are carved out to discuss a specific caseload with a colleague; certainly not the venue to discuss your private work.
So, Where Can You Access Clinical Supervision in the Private Sector?
The demanding landscape of clinic life does not dramatically change when you decide to open your own clinic. This may sound like a ‘spoiler alert’ moment and it certainly isn’t meant to dampen any enthusiasm. Indeed, in order to evolve into the professional you want to be; clinical supervision is an essential support tool and can be used to build on your vision and pillars for success as a private clinician.
Working within private practice can allow you to focus on very specific areas of your chosen discipline, which for many is the driving force of going solo. So, when opting to specialise in a specific area as a private clinician, it is also important to understand that this may limit your exposure to other disciplines and professionals. Indeed, these connections often offer valuable insights that can benefit the exact types of conditions you may choose to specialise in. The need for multi-disciplinary insights does not sidestep the world of private practice.
Most if not all private practitioners will be required either by the terms of their insurance or indeed by their professional body membership to undertake a certain amount of clinical supervision hours to remain compliant. The safeguard of clinical supervision remains just as relevant across all sectors of healthcare whether that be public or private.
What Can a Peer Support Group Offer?
Peer support groups can provide a vital space for decompression but also can provide valuable enrichment opportunities.
Finding a professional peer support group can allow you to gain all the benefits of clinical supervision, with like-minded clinicians who understand the challenges that private practices and clinicians face. Monthly sessions can follow the similar values of clinical supervision in respect of confidentiality; where members can talk about challenges and successes. Peer Support Groups can offer a real focus on self-care and compassion with further CPD opportunities, for example, listening to guest speakers from a wide range of disciplines from nutritional therapists to business psychologists and even topics covering accounting and finance.
Group peer support also offers a wider variety in terms of building your professional network and allow you to explore professional challenges within a multi-disciplinary arena. With peer support groups attracting a multitude of disciplines, this layer of professional diversity has benefited many with information sharing and professional development.
Whether you are a newbie to private practice or veteran clinician, group peer support can be an essential tool within your practice toolkit.
In the words of Erik Erikson; ‘Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all’.
1 Imo, Udemezue O. (2017) “Burnout and psychiatric morbidity among doctors in the UK: a systematic literature review of prevalence and associated factors.” British Journal of Psychology Bulletin 41(4), 197-204. doi:10.1192/pb.bp.116.054247