Some of the best ideas to enhance Nurse & Midwife Support’s suite of support resources often come from stakeholders themselves, says Consultant and Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Mark Aitken, explaining how the organisation’s venture into podcasts unfolded.
Several years ago, he met a nurse at a conference who said she loved reading NM Support’s website content but wished she could support her health and wellbeing through exercise at the same time. If a podcast was available, she could kill two birds with one stone, she said.
Mark, who agreed that a podcast could add to the website’s variety of content and connection to its audience, quickly got the ball rolling.
He undertook podcast expert Rachel Corbett’s course, sourced the right equipment, and became resident host of the series where “nurses and midwives discuss the issues that matter to our community”.
Five years and 35 podcasts later, the series has featured some of the profession’s most influential leaders and covered topics ranging from self-care to burnout and bullying and harassment.
“During that time, we’ve had a number of guests talking about topical, interesting, fun topics in the professions for nurses and midwives that not only give them information but make them think a bit, engage them, and sometimes make them laugh and bring joy to their lives,” says Mark.
NM Support was the first free, confidential and 24/7 national telephone and online service offering health support to nurses and midwives across Australia.
Mark says the main objective behind developing a podcast was to raise further awareness about the service so that nurses and midwives can access early intervention and support for themselves, or colleagues, if they are struggling.
In Australia, the popularity of podcasts has grown considerably in recent years. People from celebrities to influencers and everyday people have started their own podcasts on a variety of topics. Nursing is no different, with more and more offerings emerging that focus on the professions.
Radio in digital form, podcasts offer people greater choice about how, and when, they access information, says Mark.
“I think the biggest selling point is its accessibility because you can listen to a podcast anywhere whereas you’re unlikely to be walking long with your phone looking at a website reading an article. But you can do that with a podcast; it’s the on-demand availability of it.
“Secondly, what listeners tell us is that they love hearing the voices of the guests and people telling their stories, or the experts sharing information and resources.
“I think if you’re experiencing bullying and harassment in a workplace, it can be quite isolating and lonely because you may often not speak to other people about it. But if you can anonymously hear that experience, told through a podcast, you can connect with the common theme and threads. A nurse or midwife might think that person is being really open and honest and those things are happening to me and they got support and they got through it, so there’s hope for me.”
Reflecting on his journey of developing content, resources and information for nurses and midwives related to their health, Mark says he realised early on that its useful, and even essential, to serve up a menu to people so that they can then choose what medium works for them at any given time.
Ideas for podcast topics are largely driven by stakeholders, Mark says, with nurses and midwives he meets out on the road often suggesting current issues to home in on. Calls to the service also offer a real-time insight into issues being experienced by the professions.
“If we have a lot of calls on burnout or bullying and harassment, or people wanting a career change or exhaustion, then we’ll go well we need to look at our content in that area and develop content that meets the needs of people who are identifying those are issues for them,” Mark says.
“I think we’re pretty agile in doing that. For example, through the pandemic, we were able to reflect through our content, our podcasts, and other resources, information that was really important, and is still important, to nurses and midwives, particularly in relation to their health and wellbeing.”
Mark says the toll of the unprecedented global COVID-19 pandemic, on the back of natural disasters such as bushfires and floods, has meant that nurses have been challenged like never before on the frontlines.
“We’re starting to hear a lot from nurses and midwives and their experience about dealing with long COVID,” he says.
“That’s’ really interesting to reflect on because when you’re on the frontline and working really long shifts, and working in PPE all day, for many people it’s going to have an impact on their health and wellbeing. I wonder if, for some nurses and midwives, whether that caused their immune system to be debilitated so they weren’t able to recover from COVID in the same way other people may have been able to.”
After nearly 40 episodes, Mark struggles to pick out a favourite but insists the most enjoyable chats revolve around the celebration of nurses and midwives and their interesting, diverse and impactful careers.
The ongoing mission, he says, is to connect with as many nurses and midwives as possible and collaborate with other organisations to elevate the voice of the professions and its importance.