BLOG: What I learned about staff support #1

The PS Centre has asked long-time roster member Gordy Dodge, Ph.D., LP to share his reflections, observations and recommendations from 25 years of experience in domestic and international disaster work with the readers of the PS Centre’s website.

In the first blog post in a series of four, Gordy Dodge discusses how the responsibility for good staff care lies at different levels, from the individual to the organizational level.

Individual, peer, supervisory, and organizational responsibilities

Whether expat, national, local staff or volunteer, the primary responsibility for staff care lies with each staff person. This applies to whether or not accepting a disaster assignment is a wise and healthy thing to do, how to leave home if required by the assignment, knowing how to take care of oneself while on assignment (and doing it), how and when to leave an assignment constructively and how to take care of oneself after an assignment. There are self-evaluation and self-monitoring materials available if a potential staff person does not have them, and a responsible organization should provide such materials to applicants when needed.

As colleagues and peers, we also have a responsibility to watch out for each other. We can encourage good self-care for each other and give respectful honest feedback to our colleagues when we observe staff behaviour that may be harmful to their well-being.

Supervisors have the responsibility and authority to foster, monitor and maintain good self-care among staff. This is best addressed on a regular basis through unit or team discussion and planning, but also may need to occur through one-on-one sessions, referral to a staff health or mental health resource person, or to an employee assistance program if one is available.

Administrators need to ensure that there are meaningful staff care policies, procedures and resources, and that they are implemented, monitored and maintained. Effective staff care cuts across department lines and typically includes human resources, staff training, staff health and mental health. If an organization has a board of directors, it is helpful for the board to discuss and approve staff care policy – and realize that good staff care is integral to the organization’s mission.

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