A pathway to a healthier you

Normalising counselling for nurses and midwives

Midwife Bridget works in a major tertiary hospital in Melbourne. She has experienced the highs and lows that come with working in the profession and believes nurse and midwife-led counselling services are essential.

“I hope this new service will have a meaningful impact,” Bridget says. “I hear a lot of my colleagues say there are long waiting times for accessing EAP services. One colleague of mine who experienced a very stressful situation at work told me she had to wait three weeks to get an EAP appointment.”

Immediate access to help with processing stress

Bridget says nurses and midwives should have immediate access to support from the beginning of their careers when trying to process a stressful event. “Having access to a nurse and midwife led counselling service will help us genuinely have someone available that you can speak to right way. More availability of services can never be a bad thing.”

Graduate and early career midwife support

Providing support for graduate and early career midwives is something Bridget is passionate about. “I started as a graduate buddy this year. I think a lot of graduate nurses and midwives are terrified when they are sent into the deep end in an acute sector. This is where burn-out starts,” she says. 

“I am hearing from junior midwives that they are considering leaving the profession because they are so stressed and not properly supported. Graduate midwives are desperate for mentors and my dream is that every graduate would be allocated a mentor when they start out.”

Supervision needed – regular and practical

Nurses and midwives could benefit from regular supervision, according to Bridget. “I think we need supervision sessions in the same way that social workers do. If all nurses and midwives had someone to meet with regularly that could make a huge difference to stress levels,” she says. 

“It is hard to give so much and see so much trauma – our graduates need practical support; someone to ask, ‘can you help with this procedure?’. When you talk to colleagues, they are all feeling this, but they also feel like the odd one out and think they are not coping when everyone else is.”

Cultural shift to normalise seeking help

Nurses and midwives are not willing to accept poor pay and conditions and high levels of stress today, Bridget says. “They aren’t willing to accept lower wages and conditions than their peers in other professions. There is a big culture shift, and we are deciding to look after ourselves more.”

Bridget says the profession needs a cultural change and advocates for regular counselling sessions for nurses and midwives. 

 “It could be difficult for our colleagues to engage in counselling for the first time but maybe we could give our midwives and nurses one hour a month to use a service,” she says.

“If you use it once and have a good experience, you are more likely to go back. I think we should ask managers to include some double staff time so that everyone can have regular sessions. If this was standard practice our graduate midwives will realise that they can debrief and get on top of things and prevent burn-out in the early stages of their career.”