World Social Worker Day (March 16th) – A social worker’s perspective on wellness

Janice Leaf – ED Social Worker
Gold Coast University Hospital

By Janice Leaf – ED social worker

1. Would you say you pay attention to your Wellness?

Some days more than others!

I do try to move through my day with a deliberate focus and awareness in the moment, bringing my attention to my feeling state, my mood, as often as I remember to do so. I consciously try to catch any feelings of stress or irritability before they gather too much momentum. Also, when I am aware of more positive feelings such as, a sense of connection, a sense of achievement, of making a difference, of team camaraderie, I try to really focus in on these; enjoying them and “milking” them, and so, impacting on the way I move through my day.

I know this sounds very simple, but I actually find it surprisingly effective!

2. What is your experience of how your wellness at work translates into how you do your job?

As I mentioned in the previous answer, I find I will have a not-so-good day if I am swept along by the momentum of crappy feelings, with the result that my whole work-day has an unfulfilling slant to it. However, I often have really good days and feel I do my job so much better when I focus in on any positive feelings I can catch throughout the day.

I find that even through some of the really sad and often traumatic situations that we are exposed to in our ED work – situations that have the potential to be emotionally draining and that can fill one with a profound sense of sadness – that retaining a positive sense of self and a focus in the present moment can act as a buffer, providing easy access to an empathic and compassionate response in any moment.

3. Do you think you can tell when your teammates are well (or unwell)? How does this affect the service you deliver as a team? How does it affect your enjoyment of your shift?

Yes, I think I do have some awareness of my teammates state of wellness, although we are all complex creatures with a colourful spectrum of responses and ways of being in the world.

I think we deliver a fantastic service when we are all feeling connected, with consideration and respect for each other and for what we each bring.

I enjoy my shift so much more at these times.

4. Can you give us one idea of something you have done at work (or would like to do) to promote staff wellness in any way?

I taped a picture of a wise old owl on the ED SW office door with a quote on it “Remember, what has been seen cannot be unseen”.

I did this to remind us, before we walk out the door, that we don’t need to unnecessarily expose ourselves to situations that we don’t need to be part of, as there are already enough times that we witness traumatic visuals in this environment. 

Just a warning to take care, as research shows that repeated exposure to trauma does have a cumulative effect and can increase the risks of vicarious trauma and burnout.

This picture also makes me smile as I walk out the door.

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