A pathway to a healthier you

Ask for clinical supervision

Julie Sharrock credits attending a conference in the third year of her nursing training with inspiring her to have a lifelong commitment to nurse and midwife self-care. 

Julie Sharrock remembers attending a conference in Ballarat where one of the presenters talked about a counselling service for nurses at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. 

Fast forward decades later to the present day and Julie, an esteemed Mental Health Nurse Consultant, Clinical Supervisor and Educator, continues to advocate for clinical supervision and professional support for nurses and midwives. 

Julie shares some of her insights into what workplaces, managers and nurses and midwives themselves can do to encourage a culture of self-care, support, and clinical supervision to avoid burnout and retain a healthy workforce. 

Talk about your challenges (in a safe place)

“Clinical supervision, as I provide it, is when one or more nurses or midwives meet with a clinical supervisor in a safe, confidential space and we have a conversation about their work and the ethical or moral challenges they might face.”

Review of past patient care 

“It also involves talking about clients or patients and reflecting on the different ways of approaching their work and what that might mean. This approach has now been applied to the relational work we do in healthcare. It is retrospective and safe. A confidential conversation between a nurse or midwife and clinical supervisor that is not part of performance review and is separate from operational reporting. 

“The only time any information might go outside the relationship is if there is a concern about safety, professional conduct, or mandatory reporting. This might need to be escalated and in the first instance, this is raised in the session to find a way forward. In the unlikely instance where the clinical supervisor and the nurse or midwife cannot reach agreement on how to proceed, the supervisor may need to escalate this.”

Reflect on practice – the good and the bad

“Importantly we need to have clinical supervision that is about reflecting on practice. It is about reflecting on practice and the challenges of that practice. I think nurses and midwives do this informally when they talk to each other and bounce ideas off trusted colleagues who have some understanding of what they might be going through. 

Review the nurse or midwife and their work

“While these conversations are important it is different with a clinical supervisor because the conversation is about the nurse or midwife – the focus is on them and their work, and the relationship is clear and defined. 

Ask a trusted peer what they would do

“If a difficult situation comes up at work the first point of call is often a colleague or mentor – someone who might have a good understanding of how to work through a situation. If you need support… think about someone who you think could handle the situation and how they would approach it. Tap into your role models and this might help with coming up with ideas on how to manage the situation. I recommend approaching someone to help so you don’t feel like you are on your own.”

Support one another (even if its personal)

“If the difficulty is personal rather than professional, you might also reach out to a colleague. Nurses love talking to nurses. In my days as a mental health nurse consultant in general hospital, nurses would often come up to me and say, ‘can I run something by you’ about personal matters. The Nurse and Midwife National Health program could help here. Especially if you will be able to talk to a nurse or midwife who understands the work and the challenges.”

Request clinical supervision at your workplace

“We need more clinical supervisors to be educated and prepared to offer clinical supervision to nurses and midwives. We can also focus on creating a reflective culture in our workplace. A culture where nurses and midwives can talk to their teammates about their work and reflect on their practice. In-service education can also help and reaching out to expert ethical teams in the hospital.”

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