© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2019

Concerns yoga could replace clinical supervision of nurses

Luke Hempleman

A Canterbury nurse fears a new yoga programme aimed at reducing stress for Hillmorton Hospital staff will replace the traditional model of clinical supervision.

The Canterbury District Health Board is trialling "sankalpa", a form of deep meditation where a person repeats a positive mantra to themselves to relax and become more compassionate

But one nurse, who could not be named as she was not permitted  to speak to media , was concerned the yoga would replace the existing practice of clinical supervision.

She said this involved a senior staff member sitting with a junior nurse for an hour to discuss issues faced in the workplace.

"Sankalpa is cheaper, you don’t have to pay staff an hour’s wage to sit in a room and meditate” she said.

She believed that, although nurses often faced traumatic situations, their mental health was not prioritised.  

"Mental health nurses deal with suicide and trauma regularly. Without help, this permeates in.”

The nurse said staff development was currently focused on improving practical skills, rather than on reflection or taking time for themselves.

“The idea of ‘a good nurse is a busy nurse’ is bred into you.”

She said self-care was important, but that approach meant the nurses could be blamed if  their mental health declined.

She believed the board also had a responsibility to offer staff more comprehensive support  than a yoga programme . 

 New Zealand Nurses Organisation Mental Health spokesperson, Helen Garrick, said mindfulness practices, like Sankalpa, were not a viable alternative to supervision.

“They are completely different. Nurses may wish to use mindfulness practices to help with stress…but this is separate from clinical supervision.”

Garrick believed health activities that enhanced staff well-being were valuable, but could not replace proper practices.

However the Canterbury District Health Board said the yoga was a pilot programme and was not offered or promoted as a form of clinical supervision.

The board said it still was gauging interest in the scheme which had been running just two weeks and it could not provide feedback or responses from staff involved.

It would not comment further on the current clinical supervision model.

 University of Sydney Work and Organisational Studies researcher, Dr Helena Nguyen, said Sankalpa had already been implemented in hospitals across Sydney.

She said it has been shown to reduce stress, improve physical health and mood, increase job satisfaction, and increase work performance.”

Nguyen said employers should actively encourage and create a mentally healthy workplace however they deemed appropriate.