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How's your occupational health?

In January 2018, Bulletin included an article written by Claire Ewen, entitled, How’s your occupational health? For our 75th theme of love, we asked Claire to write a follow-up to that article.

Over the last two years I have been conducting research to answer the question 'How is your occupational health?'. While the PhD that will result from the research is still a work in progress, there are some results to report. Initial findings suggest that SLTs take responsibility for their well-being and feel they are resilient. However, they don’t always have control over the elements of their work that put them at risk of stress, with the result that almost half have poor mental health. Those who are the least well, are inclined to be in jobs where they don’t feel understood or valued by commissioners and others.

Feeling supported tends to improve mental health – but support and supervision is very variable. SLTs report that they love working with service-users and being able to effect change; to make a difference to people’s lives. Large caseloads and a lack of staffing can mean this is difficult, leading to dissatisfaction. So, what are the take-home messages? The well-being of the workforce is not solely the responsibility of the practitioner. SLTs do take care of themselves. However, there is a danger of transferring the responsibility of the workplace to the psychology of the individual. Employers need to ensure that demands are manageable, that support is effective and that SLTs do have some control – that they have a voice – in the way that their services are designed. Finally, more work needs to be done to ensure that the profession is understood – by commissioners, other professionals and the general public. 

Claire Ewen, SLT

Want more SLT self-care? Check out these top tips from speech and language therapy students: