New Zealand researchers looked at the importance of professional supervision of palliative care doctors.

Their study, recently published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, showed professional supervision for was important both personally and professionally for enhancing clinical functioning and supporting doctors’ well-being.

The researchers embarked on the topic of professional supervision, because it is “not well understood in the medical context”.

Their research endeavoured to capture the current attitudes to and experiences of professional supervision amongst palliative care doctors in New Zealand.

Professional Supervision was felt to be important, particularly by those currently participating in it, for enhancing clinical functioning and supporting doctors’ well-being. Supervisees’ responses showed Professional Supervision to be a safe experience, addressing a wide range of issues, with a positive effect on personal coping.

The researchers also identified barriers to undertaking professional supervision. These included finding a supervisor, lack of funding and time, with the most significant factor being whether the workplace supported professional supervision.

“Professional Supervision may be a proactive way for organisations to protect staff wellbeing.  The bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework represented by the holistic ‘Te Whare Tapa Wha’ model supports patient care in the New Zealand context, and Professional Supervision may facilitate application of this alongside attending to the needs of providers.”

The authors of the study acknowledge there is growing need to address doctors’ resilience, emotional wellbeing, and burnout, and they suggest professional supervision may be effective in attending to these issues, in addition to providing protection against stress and vicarious trauma.

The role of professional supervision for palliative care doctors in New Zealand: a quantitative survey of attitudes and experiences by Debbie Barham, Wayne de Beer, Helen Clark is published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

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