Dr Susie Hunt clinician support and wellbeing

Dr Susie Hunt

Professional Wellbeing & Clinician Support

BSc(Hons), MBBChir, MRCGP(dist), DRCOG, DCH

‘Human resources are the most important asset of any organisation.
As doctors continue to grapple with staying well, it is imperative that they have the support of their profession and their healthcare organisations to maximise their ability to care for themselves and their patients safely and effectively’

BMJ Editorial July 14th 2017

Clinical Staff Wellbeing, Debrief & Pastoral Care

The overarching vision of Dr Susie Hunt‘s consultancy (Professional Wellbeing & Clinician Support) is clear – to support, promote and defend the wellbeing of NHS clinicians, both medics and non-medics, through one-to-one pastoral support and group work (facilitated reflective debrief).
The ‘Doctors-for-Doctors’ arm of the service was formed under her lead in response to the Covid pandemic in March 2020 (see ‘Doctors-for-Doctors’ section) and provides 1:1 pastoral supervision for increasing numbers of medics and surgeons at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Aims of the service are to –
1. Be available for 1:1 support for clinical staff – to provide a non-judgmental, safe, supportive environment, a holding place where issues can be addressed and worked through in a facilitated way, with suitable triaging/referral to other specialists as indicated.
2. Cultivate ‘community at work’ – to promote connectivity, a sense of coherence and camaraderie amongst a workforce of low morale where system pressures conspire against relationships and sense of team.
3. Establish a culture of reflective practice – enabling work pressures, issues and difficulties and  patient related challenges to be acknowledged and explored in a supportive, facilitated space amongst peers, reinforcing values of kindness and good practice, whilst concurrently developing staff’s reflective skills by equipping them with easy, effective reflective tools/methodology.
4. Raise the baseline of resilience amongst clinical staff –  through relevant, proactive approaches to discussion in a down-to-earth relational way.
5. Attend to the needs of the whole person – body, mind, emotions, spirit (meaning, purpose, identity), relationships – by creating a safe, respectful space where vulnerability and openness is endorsed and where dignity and honour are upheld and holistic issues explored.
6. Increase a sense of personal wellbeing and satisfaction amongst clinical staff.
7. Enable a reclaiming of staff motivation and meaning in their work – by establishing a reconnection/ remembering of life goals and aims.
8. Facilitate difficult case-specific debriefs and team-conflict/dysfunction debrief sessions.

Clinician Support and wellbeing

The Problems

Burnout  is an increasing problem amongst the NHS workforce, characterised by emotional depletion, depersonalization (feeling uncaring, detached) and a reduced sense of accomplishment, studies suggesting that “what we see is just the tip of the iceberg”.
A constellation of overlapping but less publicised maladies are also prevalent in the ‘pressure vessel’ of the NHS working environment – secondary traumatic stress disorder/compassion fatigue/trauma exposure response and the escalating interpersonal conflict situations associated with working in a culture of lack.
Clinicians experiencing burnout are reported to be at higher risk of making poor decisions, display hostile attitudes to patients, make more errors, and have difficult relationships with co-workers. There is risk of depression, anxiety, substance misuse, sickness absence, premature retirement and suicide.

The pressing need to enhance resilience, reduce burnout and support wellbeing amongst the NHS clinical workforce is well recognised and an issue being increasingly highlighted in the medical literature and by professional bodies (1,2). Two of the principle key elements known to promote the wellbeing of clinical staff (3) – namely ‘Community’ and ‘Reflective Practice’ – underpin the outworking of Dr Susie Hunt’s vision for clinical staff wellbeing, debrief and pastoral support.
Investment in staff wellbeing impacts not only on staff satisfaction, retention and sick leave rates, but also on all aspects of patient care – patient safety, efficiency and experience – ‘happy staff do indeed make happy patients’.

1. Lemaire JB, Wallace JE. Burnout among doctors BMJ 2017;358:j3360. doi:10.1136/bmj.
2. BMA Report: caring for the Mental Health of the medical workforce May 2019
3. Tait D, Shanafelt MD, Noseworthy MD Executive Leadership and Physician Well-being: Nine organizational strategies to promote engagement and reduce burnout. Mayo Clin Proc 2017;92:129-146