Supporting your support staff during crises: recommendations for practice leaders to develop a relational workplace
Dakin F., Rai T., Paparini S., Greenhalgh T.
Background The workload and wellbeing of support staff in general practice has been critically understudied. This includes reception, secretarial and administrative workers who are critical in the daily practice function. Currently, only reception staff are mentioned in the evidence base on general practice working conditions, and all support staff are excluded from studies about the impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers’ work and wellbeing. Aim To outline the unique work support staff do, the additional burden it places on them, and how the symphony of crises in 2020–2023 compounded those burdens. Additionally, to provide practical advice for practice leaders on how to support staff wellbeing through developing a relational and psychologically safe working environment. Methods These findings are drawn from qualitative research (case studies built through observations, interviews and focus groups) conducted in 2022–2023. Results Through theoretically informed analysis, we found that support staff do specialist intersectional guiding work to support patients, other staff, and the practice as a whole. We define this as lay translation, specialist-lay translation, and occupational translation. Under crises, the volume of this work grows, complexifies, and becomes more fragmented. Relational and supportive teams were more able to adapt to these challenges. Discussion Support staff should be recognised and enabled to perform these specialised roles. Therefore, we provide a set of recommendations for practice leaders to consider integrating into their own workplaces.