Second, I really liked that they broadened the terminology from the oft used "self-care" to "staff wellness and resiliency." I've become increasingly uncomfortable with the emphasis that many workshops, trainings, books, articles, and tool kits on trauma informed care (including those offered by my own organization) place on employee "self-care" as the key preventive measure and antidote to secondary traumatic stress or vicarious trauma. To me, prioritizing self-care places far too much of the responsibility on the individual employee and far too little responsibility on organizations and systems to integrate practices, protocols and policies that support and nurture staff so they can, in turn, support and nurture those they serve.
So, what do I mean by practices, protocols and polices that support and nurture staff and prevent and ameliorate secondary traumatic stress? Here are a few ideas.
- Educate all staff about the signs and symptoms of secondary traumatic stress and self-care.
- Provide meaningful and creative opportunities for professional development (e.g. brown bag lunches on topics of interest to staff, book club discussion groups, etc.)
- Provide opportunities for staff to safely explore their own trauma histories.
- Provide reflective supervision, a model which gives staff an opportunity to meet regularly and collaboratively with their supervisors to reflect on how their work affects them and deepens their understanding of parallel process.
- Offer on-site opportunities for employee self-care and social connection such as physical activity, birthday celebrations, knitting circles, yoga, meditation, etc.
- Make the creation of individual safety and self-care plans an organizational practice for all staff.
- Empower employees and provide opportunities for them to contribute their ideas to organizational improvement, staff wellness and resilience.
- Ensure that the physical environment where staff works is safe.
- Ensure that staff have psychological safety at work (e.g. have and enforce strong policies condemning bullying, harassment, discrimination, racism, sexism, etc. in the workplace)
- Provide health and mental health care benefits and access to employee assistance programs.
- Provide paid sick and family leave.
- Provide a living wage.