A pathway to a healthier you

Managers - your health and supporting your team

Managers of nurses and midwives are crucial to modeling, supporting, and resourcing the health of their team and promoting a healthy work environment. To do this effectively managers need to be healthy and supported. 

This may seem like a pipe dream for busy nurse/midwife managers while juggling competing priorities and dealing with the unpredictable nature of their work. 

Sabra’s story: pathway from rock bottom to healthier work practices. 

Sabra, an experienced Nurse Unit Manager, loved managing her team-until she didn’t. 

Like many nurse managers I fell into being a manager. I loved being a clinical nurse. Then one day the nurse manager suddenly left, and I was asked to step up.

Learning on the job

Feeling flattered by the request, Sabra was catapulted into the world of nurse management and initially thrived in the new and exciting role.  

“Initially being a manager was like having a shiny new toy, each day was different, challenging and like solving a puzzle. While verbally supportive my manager was so busy herself that she didn’t have time to prepare or mentor me for the whirlwind world of management.” 

Racing to keep up with COVID 

Like all nurses and midwives Sabra got on with the work to be done. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and her role escalated 10-fold into a world of uncertainty and unpredictability. 

“Nothing could have prepared me for what the pandemic threw at us. I was afraid and exhilarated, daily I put on a brave face to support my team. I realise now I was running on adrenaline, drinking too much caffeine to get through the day, not sleeping enough and not looking after my health.” 

Privately Sabra experienced feelings of despair, panic, and poor concentration. 

Hitting pause for health

“When I contracted COVID-19 I was forced to take time off. It was like somebody pressed the off button on the treadmill. I felt like I had hit rock bottom!” 

This confronting enforced break enabled Sabra to have time to reflect, rest and reset priorities. 

I realised I hadn’t been looking after myself and, in the process, I wasn’t being a good health role model for my team

Identifying a new way of working

Sabra made an intentional decision to live and work differently. After speaking to her manager about returning to work part time, Sabra negotiated to continue in her Nurse Unit Manager Role in a job-share arrangement. Sabra was able to pick up extra clinical shifts if she wanted. 

This was the impetus to do things differently.  

“It was like the enforced break lifted a veil and I could see what I needed to do to be the best and most healthy version of myself and support my team.” 

Team health – 10 tips for managers 

Sabra shares ideas for helping managers to prioritise their own health and lead a healthy team culture:

  1. Create your own self care plan. Make looking after YOU a priority. Use the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria: self-care template.
  2. Access professional coaching or supervision.
  3. Talk to your manager about how everyone’s good health ensures the success of the team and how to make it a priority.
  4. Collaborate with other managers to make team health a shared responsibility and a strategic organisation focus. 
  5. Talk to each team member about their health needs. Encourage them to create their own self-care plan. 
  6. Check-in everyday with team members. Ask: Are you OK? Listen, reflect, and focus on solutions.
  7. Add team health check ins to team meeting agendas. 
  8. Develop a quality/continuous improvement plan around team health initiatives. 
  9. Provide health resources to team members. 
  10. Become a Nurse and Midwife Health Program Ambassador.

When you’re not ok

Seek help. Speak to a nurse or midwife who understands. 

I think when we take care of each other, then the patients are taken care of. When somebody’s exhausted or has made a stupid mistake, the quickest think we can do is say to them, are you okay.” Okay is the question we should ask of each other and be there for each other. We can still be stressed and be overworked, but for some reason, it feels intensely joyful when we know we have each other’s back. It’s strange thing about human beings.
Simon Sinek, founder of the Optimism Company in the US.
  • How exceptional leadership can improve retention and ignite better nursing and midwifery care. Australian and Nursing Federation Journal Volume 28, No. 2 Oct-Dec 2023 Page 21