The Director of our programme in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Dr Michael Duffy, co-produced a handbook for the Final Year Social Work students from Queen’s University and Ulster University who are graduating early to boost the healthcare workforce and its response to COVID-19. Entitled Preparing for Practice: Psychological Considerations during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the handbook is a collaboration with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Health and Social Care Board.
Michael contributed to similar handbooks, with Dr Ciaran Mulholland and colleagues in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, for medical students and junior doctors working with the pandemic. The medical students’ handbook was circulated to all 32 medical schools in the UK.
Similar handbooks are underway for nursing students and Allied Health Professionals. They outline the potential psychological impact of the current situation on students joining the system at this time. There are suggestions on how to manage their own health and wellbeing, whilst acknowledging the significant contribution new social workers and health professionals are making to the workforce.
Michael Duffy has been interviewed by various news media about the potential psychological impact on new health professionals of joining the work force now. He commented: ‘For the doctors, nurses and all the healthcare workers on the front line of this pandemic, the psychological effects will, in some ways, resemble the aftermath of a single large-scale event like the Omagh bomb. There should be support available for healthcare staff thanks to new trauma networks established in every health trust but workers still need to feel safe.
It is vitally important to provide high quality protective equipment for frontline staff. A sense of safety and security will help staff cope better psychologically with the demands of the job. Most staff will come through this pandemic without enduring mental health problems but all should be told that it is legitimate to take psychological help if needed and it is also important that they are provided with psychological help that is evidence based.'
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