Wellness - individual

The Front Foot and the Back Foot

Kirsten Strudwick – Physiotherapist

By Kirsten Strudwick

Would you say you pay attention to your Wellness?

Yes, before I had learned of the term “wellness” I had always evaluated myself as either being on the front foot or the back foot. Living on the front foot looks like:

– life admin being in order

– laundry put away

– food in the fridge

– emails read

– work deadlines met

– regular morning exercise

– healthy eating

– sobriety

Back foot phases are not pretty… sometimes it’s a matter of riding them out and gradually inching back on to the front foot, and sometimes it’s a matter of just asking for help (e.g. Mum has done the grocery shopping for our household before…!).

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

There is no doubt that wellness at work translates into productivity and having a more enjoyable shift. However, my (unqualified) observation is that there is a wide spectrum of how people let their personal and work wellness affect their performance once they hit the floor.

I have been lucky enough to work alongside some clinicians who stand out from the rest, who, when the waiting room is full and the ambulances are ramped, manage to perform well and create an environment that is enjoyable to work in, no matter what is happening within them behind the scenes. These people are leaders, creating a positive culture all around them.

For me, this is a work in progress… stringing together more time on the front foot, and when things are on the back foot, learning to leave it at the door.

Do you think you can tell when your teammates are well (or unwell)?

Yes and no. Thankfully I am part of a strong and engaged ED physiotherapy team, working closely alongside colleagues I consider to be friends. Having these types of relationships with your teammates allows you to pick up on the behaviour or language changes which might indicate they’re not at their best. In the wider ED team, with larger volumes of staff and rotating doctors, I do find it harder to identify wellness in a colleague, especially if it’s a subtle or gradual change for them. My current strategies are being approachable and sociable so that colleagues feel comfortable discussing their wellness.

How does this affect the service you deliver as a team?

Being “well” as a team increases our engagement as a department and within the hospital; when our ED team is “well” as a unit, we are efficient, collaborative and safe; when we are “well” we prioritise quality of care, projects and research that are important and meaningful to us as a unit. If one of our team is “unwell”, this definitely has an effect on everyone else working in that unit. Again, it probably comes back to having those relationships with your colleagues to identify the issue in the first instance, and understand the best strategies to help them through it.

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?

We started up a Saturday morning “Run Club” in 2011 within the physiotherapy department at my hospital. It also included some of the ED staff in which I worked. It is still going strong 10 years later, and has even seen the introduction of its more powerful sister, “Sprint Club”, which is a midweek intervals session around a cricket field, usually followed by a beer at the boss’s house. We have an annual handicapped race around the river, with a shield up in the department featuring all the winners (it took me 9 long years to get engraved into this bit of history).

There is more to running with your colleagues than the obvious physical benefits of staying healthy and releasing those good hormones; it is an opportunity to debrief, vent and laugh about work, and to learn more about each other, which helps to create those relationships that lead to high functioning teams.

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