Victorian nurse Melissa Dickinson stumbled across an advertisement for the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria’s (NMHPV) NMHPV Champion Program in 2016 while working at Geelong Private Hospital.
She recalls being immediately inspired to take the plunge and sign up for the volunteer role, which involves identifying colleagues in need of support and starting conversations that create pathways available to help through the NMHPV service.
“I have a keen interest in health and wellbeing,” Melissa says.
“At the time I was concerned with the growing fatigue level of my colleagues and also particularly interested in cultural change within hospitals and nursing.”
The NMHPV is an independent support service for nurses, midwives and students experiencing health issues related to mental health or substance use.
The free and confidential service, designed and delivered by nurses and midwives, provides screening, assessment, referrals, and individual and group counselling sessions to help nurses and midwives manage their health concerns.
Counselling can be provided over the phone or face-to-face.
“At the end of the phone is a nurse who understands immediately the demands of nursing and stressors people experience daily,” Melissa says.
NMHPV Champions undertake training to raise awareness about the service in their workplace and positively influence their peers’ health and wellbeing.
This includes being provided with resources and support information, such as self-care strategies, to support staff.
Part of their mission includes reducing stigma often associated with sensitive health issues and normalising the process of seeking help.
Melissa says the training helped her develop a better understanding of potential drug and alcohol addiction within the workplace and how to look out for warning signs.
“The training day is a lovely pause in your own work life to focus on your own wellbeing, but also equips you with the skills to go back to your workplace to help others,” Melissa explains.
“The program offers the skills to use “R U OK?” with confidence. It helps you recognise the signs of someone who may be in need of support and how to refer them to the NMHPV and what they can expect from the service.”
Currently a theatre nurse at St John of God Geelong Hospital, Melissa says the qualities and attributes needed to be a successful NMHPV Champion include strong values, good communication skills and a genuine concern for colleagues.
In her previous management role at Geelong Private, she was able to connect colleagues with the NMHPV through her role as a ‘Champion’.
“I ran information sessions about the service and what they provide for nurses and midwives,” she says.
“I was able to build a culture of care within our department and encouraged staff to check in with their peers regularly or come to me if they were concerned about anyone within the workplace.
“I regularly promoted self-care and what that may look like outside of work, ie. sleep, exercise, nutrition and the use of drugs and alcohol. I grabbed opportunities whenever possible to run mindfulness sessions for staff.”
Melissa counts linking staff with the NMHPV so they could access help as the best part of the ‘Champion’ role.
“A simple “R U OK?” often opened up a conversation that led to a colleague letting me know they were experiencing some difficulties at work or home,” she reveals.
“I would then connect the staff member with the NMHPV. I particularly love the role when you can make a significant difference in someone’s life. I was fortunate enough to support a colleague through some addiction and mental health challenges that impacted their personal and work life.”
Melissa encourages all nurses and midwives to consider becoming an NMHPV Champion.
“I highly recommend the Champion program to not only support your own health and wellbeing, but also educate you on how to tackle those tricky conversations, such as “R U OK?”. NMHPV is a great service to recommend to colleagues or access yourself. The team are non-judgemental and always have lots of time to listen.”
To find out more about the NMHPV Champion click here