Trainee psychologists offer virtual support to NHS staff

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Postgraduate students at Teesside University are supporting the mental health of NHS workers through a new online support programme.

Trainee clinical psychologists Fiona Wood and Lewis Marston are volunteering as hosts in Virtual Common Rooms – a new initiative to help NHS staff overcome the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pair are in their final year of a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Teesside University’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Law.

The virtual staff common rooms are a national programme set up in partnership with NHS Practitioner Health to provide a safe and supportive space for staff to reflect, share frustrations and experiences and find ways to cope with how Covid-19 is affecting their life at home and at work.

Fiona and Lewis volunteered for the programme after universities across the country were contacted seeking trainee clinical psychologists who might be willing to participate.

After undergoing full training, Fiona and Lewis are now acting as hosts in the common rooms to facilitate discussion and ensure each room is a safe and supportive environment.

Fiona said: “The purpose of the room is to provide coping and support mechanisms for staff who have been affected by the pandemic.

“It’s a forum for people to come to together share experiences and suggestions.

“It’s not about providing interventions, but instead has a focus on natural recovery and psychological first-aid.

“I’m really pleased to have been involved and to be part of the national effort in the fight against Covid-19.

“I’m about to start work for a local learning disability service, so this is a fantastic experience and it’s something I’m looking forward to being able to put into practice when I start my job.”

Dr Ash Summers, Programme Director for Clinical Psychology at Teesside University, said: “The pressures that NHS staff have found themselves under throughout the Covid-19 pandemic have been well documented which is doubtless likely to have an impact on the mental health and well-being of the workforce.

“Therefore, it is fantastic that Fiona and Lewis have been able to support the NHS Virtual Common Rooms initiative and help our key workers cope with what must be an extremely challenging situation.

“As a university, we pride ourselves on our ability to produce graduates who are able to make a real difference in the workplace and we are delighted not just with the impact that Fiona and Lewis have made, but also all of our clinical psychology trainees are on placements with the NHS providing essential psychological support in a range of acute, mental health and disability settings.”

For more information on the NHS Virtual Common Rooms visit https://people.nhs.uk/help/.