Wellness Warriors: A qualitative exploration of healthcare staff learning to support their colleagues in the aftermath of the Australian bushfires

Andrea Knezevic, Katarzyna Olcoń, Louisa Smith, Julaine Allan, Padmini Pai

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Abstract

PURPOSE: Healthcare staff are on the frontline during disasters despite any personal adversity and vicarious trauma they may be experiencing. Wellness Warrior training is a post-disaster intervention developed in response to the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires to support staff in a rural hospital located on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

METHOD: This study explored the experiences and perspectives of 18 healthcare staff who were trained to provide emotional and peer support to their colleagues in the aftermath of a crisis. All the Wellness Warriors participated in semi-structured interviews between March and April 2020. Data were analysed using the reflexive thematic approach.

RESULTS: Healthcare staff reported developing interpersonal skills around deep listening and connecting with others which allowed for hearing the core of their colleagues' concerns. The training also helped staff to feel differently about work and restored their faith in healthcare leadership.

CONCLUSION: Wellness Warrior training provided staff with knowledge and skills to support their colleagues in the aftermath of a natural disaster and later during the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, these findings suggest that peer support programs such as Wellness Warriors could be one way healthcare organisations can attempt to alleviate the psychological impact of natural disasters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2167298
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being
Volume18
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jan 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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