Royal Marine stress training for Cardiff hospital staff

Techniques developed by the Royal Marines on how to deal with stress are being used by hospital staff working in an accident and emergency (A&E) unit.

It is part of a year-long pilot scheme at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales (UHW).

Staff have had training similar to that used by marines to deal with "mental rigours" of their day to day role.

It comes after 83% of A&E UHW staff said they needed more support to deal with work-related stress and anxiety.

A staff survey also revealed one in three said they had faced on-going difficulties at work and at home following traumatic experiences.

Under the scheme, which coincides with National Stress Awareness Day, staff can anonymously and confidentially report any problems to trained colleagues.

Image caption Wayne Parsons suffered with post-traumatic stress after witnessing the death of two children

Staff will also be trained to spot potential signs of stress and anxiety in colleagues and deal with it appropriately.

Neil Roberts, a consultant clinical psychologist at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: "We think this is the first time that it has been used in an emergency medicine environment.

"It was developed by the Royal Marines and has been used by a number of police forces and fire services too and helps staff identify the signs of stress and trauma in colleagues and equips them to engage with them, offering support or helping them to access other support services within the health board, if needed."

Senior nurse Wayne Parsons suffered with post-traumatic stress after witnessing the death of two children.

"I don't think you realise you're under pressure," he said.

"It tends to be other people who notice. You can see horrendous things, look after horrendous injuries, things that are everyday life in the emergency unit."

Mr Parsons said it often takes an insignificant trigger for staff to "lose it".

Too late

"So it's a case of realising there's a build up of stress and pressure on yourself I didn't notice until it was too late," he said.

"Had the scheme been in place I don't think I would have needed to take the time off."

Staff nurse Sue Wood has been put through the marine-style training. She was on duty when a driver went on a hit-and-run spree in Ely, Cardiff, last month, killing Karina Menzies and injuring 13 people.

"Thankfully those kinds of incidents are rare," she said.

"But we see very difficult things on a daily basis, serious injuries like traffic accidents or someone being run over by a tractor.

"Getting on with it has always been the attitude in A&E, but it does affect us, we're still human. We need to have a vent."

Around 400 to 450 people a day attend A&E, according to staff.

Ewan Hilton, executive director of mental health charity Gofal welcomed the move by the hospital.

"Creating a culture where people feel confident to talk about their mental health and better informed to support each other can only be a positive thing for individual staff members, patients and the department as a whole," he said.

"The Welsh government's new strategy 'Together for Mental Health' makes it clear that every person, organisation and sector has an important role to play in improving mental health and wellbeing.

"As well as the obvious human and social costs, it is estimated that mental health problems cost the Welsh economy £7.2bn every year, and we encourage all employers to make staff mental health and wellbeing a priority."