Our Stories

Building resiliency, in the workforce and on Facebook

Toronto, May 11, 2017

By Geoff Koehler

Kayleigh Faulkner and Orla Smith
Kayleigh Faulkner, a clinical nurse specialist for the Trauma and Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit, and Orla Smith, part-time director of nursing/clinical research, demonstrate “yoga at work”—one of the self-care techniques used in their project, ARISE, aimed at helping nurses address stress and build resilience. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Nurses experience stress in the workplace and in their everyday lives. These stressors can cause personal and professional challenges and negatively impact one’s health. While workplace stress cannot be eliminated, a team at St. Michael’s is taking steps to help nurses learn techniques to build resilience, mitigate stress and decrease fatigue.

“Nurses aren’t alone when it comes to experiencing stress, but the high-stakes environment and intense needs of patients in trauma and critical care can be especially challenging,” said Orla Smith, part-time director of nursing/clinical research at St. Michael’s. “We want to help.”

Smith is a critical care RN with a PhD in Nursing and lead investigator on the project, called ARISE. The research team is comparing in-hospital workshops, online sessions and Facebook to see if they can enhance resiliency for up to 40 trauma and acute care nurses.

“Organizational employee health, wellness and assistance programs all provide this type of support; however, nurses are often unaware of all the options, and opportunities and access can be a challenge,” said Julie McShane, an RN and research coordinator who is part of the ARISE team.

Through ARISE, nurses are presented with St. Michael’s hospital-based health and wellness resources, including its Employee and Family Assistance Program. They’re taught and practice self-care techniques, such as yoga, and shown how to use the senses and mindfulness for stress relief at home and at work. Participants also learn about creative and reflective reading and writing.

ARISE provided nurses with a toolkit of techniques and approaches that can help promote well-being, including:
  • Yoga at work
  • Mindfulness
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Reflective writing
  • Reading for resilience
  • Simple techniques for sensory activation, including essential oils for topical and inhaled aromatherapy
  • Peer sharing and support (through Facebook)
  • Heightened awareness of hospital-based resources available through Corporate Health and other departments

To teach many of the self-care topics, ARISE capitalized on internal expertise at St. Michael’s. Kayleigh Faulkner, the Trauma and Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit’s clinical nurse specialist, led “yoga at work” workshops. Cecilia Wan, an occupational therapist with St. Michael’s, and Dr. Jacquie Gardner-Nix, a chronic pain consultant for the hospital, designed and delivered the mindfulness components. Smith said there were several St. Michael’s staff members to thank for their contributions to parts of the project.

“ARISE was built within St. Michael’s, with our people and for our nurses,” said Smith. “Because the project is tailored to our nurses it understands and reflects the context of our mission, values and patients. It was designed for the reality of the bedside nurse and their unique needs related to health and wellness.”

Participating nurses are also using a closed Facebook group to share ideas and provide peer support. McShane said feedback so far has been very positive. The team will assess the satisfaction of participants, monitoring how often the techniques are used and measuring the impact on nurses’ resilience.

“As a designated Best Practice Spotlight Organization, we incorporated recommendations from Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario Best Practice Guidelines on healthy work environments into ARISE’s design,” said Ashley Skiffington, a core member of the ARISE project team and the hospital’s BPSO Designation and Sustainability lead. “Our nurses do so much to help our patients and families and our hope is that ARISE will help boost workplace health and safety and enhance individual well-being.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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