Good Grief Café launched to support NHS community staff

Monday 28 November 2022

Catherine Lacey and Kate Price

Catherine Lacey and Kate Price

A nurse and a psychologist from Guy’s and St Thomas’ have launched a Good Grief Café to help NHS community staff talk about their experiences of loss, death and dying.

The cafés are an informal and confidential space that allow staff to reflect on how death affects us all both personally and professionally. 

The one-hour sessions are co-facilitated by Kate Price, a professional nurse advocate, and Catherine Lacey, a clinical psychologist for staff support at Guy’s and St Thomas’. 

Kate said: “Our community nurses often form a major part of a patient and their family’s life, providing care in their homes for many years and end of life care. Death and dying are often considered ‘part of the job’, and of course this is what many of us working in healthcare will experience, but it’s not uncommon for staff to experience grief following the death of a patient.”

She added: “During the pandemic our community staff experienced an unprecedented number of patient deaths and a significant increase in the number of patients receiving palliative care. We developed the Good Grief Café to acknowledge the accumulation of grief we experience throughout our careers, to normalise the grief process and to provide extra support – looking after the mental health of our staff is just as important as their physical health.”

Three neighbourhood nursing teams in Rotherhithe, Bermondsey South and Bermondsey North took part in the Good Grief Café pilot, with 91% scoring the sessions as ‘useful’ to ‘very useful’ and recommending the café to colleagues.

Catherine said: “It’s completely understandable that our nurses experience distress and sadness when a patient dies, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when they were seeing such a high number of complex patients. Social distancing restrictions at the time made it even more isolating because incidental supportive conversations between colleagues that would usually happen in an office became less available. 

“Being able to talk about the impact of loss and having a space to speak with colleagues strengthens the relationship of the team. A lot of staff don’t realise something has had an impact on them and others until they have the space to talk about it.”

Genevieve Irono
Genevieve Irono

Genevieve Irono, a clinical nurse lead and practice educator, joined one of the first cafés. She said: “COVID-19 had a large impact on our team so it was good to talk about it and listen to how others felt. Grief and death effects everybody one way or another and when you talk about how you feel it helps you to heal.”

Cendrig Rodriguez
Cendrig Rodriguez

Cendrig Rodriguez, a neighbourhood nursing development coach, attended the café after experiencing a family bereavement. He said: “It was a relief to finally talk about something that I had been keeping to myself. It’s hard to let go but speaking in that protected environment made me feel comfortable so I could open up – it made me feel heard and valued.”

Refreshments for the café and Catherine’s role are funded by Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity.

Thanks to generous donations from the public, Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity help support the Trust’s teams by funding one of the broadest staff health and wellbeing programmes in the NHS. Through the Charity-funded Showing We Care About You programme, Guy’s and St Thomas’ staff can access a range of services including free physiotherapy sessions, help to stop smoking, healthy eating programmes and support from a dedicated team of staff psychologists.

Last updated: November 2022

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