Practical tips on how to maintain your own emotional wellbeing during placement

Self-care for health professionals: Building resilience, enhancing work engagement and preventing burnout

You can register to view this webcast by Dr Anne Poulsen, an Occupational Therapist who has over two decades of experience in the field of workplace health and wellbeing.  It takes an hour to watch but is worth investing the time.  Dr Poulsen (2013) summarises a range of evidence based self-care strategies for health professionals to build resilience and prevent burnout.  A key message is that burnout often occurs over time so health professionals need to invest in their own self-care well before the emotional and/or physical wellbeing is compromised.

She describes four major components affecting wellbeing and resilience: the ability to Detach, Relax, Obtain mastery and Gain control.  Within these categories, several valuable strategies enable health professionals to maintain wellbeing:


  • Set boundaries – consciously shift your thoughts away from work at the end of the day, leave notes/laptop/emails at work
  • Try to remain in the ‘Here and Now’ – reduce thinking about yesterday or what else needs to be done tomorrow
  • Incorporate ‘breathing space’ - Include adequate time away from your student during placement. Organise a session with another practitioner, provide them with project work, documentation time, reflection time so that you can catch up on what you need to do
  • Stop to savour – pause to consider a good moment, communicate positives with others
  • Consider three good things that happened today
  • Consider the use of ‘Appreciative Inquiry’ – with the team and student, actively discuss what is working well, list achievements


  • Take two deep breaths regularly
  • Allocate 10 minutes per day to abdominal breathing
  • Consider the use of formal relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation 30 minutes per day. Griffith University has a list of links to various self help resources to improve your wellbeing for you to choose from
  • Consider starting regular Yoga
  • Take real breaks - sleep, naps, a holiday


  • Find a hobby
  • Build a network. Ensure you have enough support yourself – supervision or mentoring with a peer professionally as well as including an active social network outside of work
  • Identify your strengths to energise
  • Consider ‘Job Crafting’ – actively evaluate and change job components to align with identified strengths
  • Participate in lifelong learning -  this can provide access to additional opportunities and improve self-confidence and critical thinking ability amongst others


  • Become self-aware and politically adept so you are able to identify potential stressors and manage them in a timely fashion
  • Learn to say ‘no’ – assertive communicators are less likely to get swamped yet still maintain professionalism
  • Set one goal – when we have something to work towards, we are motivated to continue and achieve
  • Reward yourself – at the end of a placement, make sure you do something positive for yourself. You deserve it.

The ‘Here and Now’ - Mindfulness

Although mentioned by Dr Poulsen as part of maintaining emotional wellbeing, Mindfulness is a clinical practice in its own right.  Mindfulness refers to a state of mind focused on the ‘here and now’.  It is a practice linked to maintaining wellbeing in a variety of settings, from businesses to home, and can be used as a clinical tool or for your own emotional wellbeing.  We are often distracted or worried by ‘what would happen if’? or ‘I shouldn’t have done that.’ Mindfulness encourages us to be present in the current situation, concentrating wholly on what is occurring at that particular moment in time.  Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness, provides an operational definition in this clip.

To get started on your journey, read Mindful's 'Getting started with Mindfulness'. 


Supervision and Self-Care in Practice

In addition to mindfulness and self-care principles described, the Mental Health Professional Online Development website has compiled a formal Supervision and self-care in Mental Health Services learning module on how clinical practitioners can understand the challenges of working in the Mental Health setting specifically and importance of self-care. (Note:  The modules are free to complete, but require you to register as a user of the site)


Rewards and Reflection after Placement

After placement is completed, advantages can be gained from spending a small amount of time reflecting and rewarding yourself for all of the hard work undergone to complete the placement.  Consideration of the aspects you enjoyed most, what was done well and what could be done differently next time, allows a formal conclusion of the placement as well as learning for next time.

Read through the 'FACT SHEET - Post Placement for Clinical Educators' for a practical framework to get you started.

Link through to the 'After the Placement' section of this site for practical tips




  • Dr Anne Poulsen (2013). Self-care for health professionals: Building resilience, enhancing work engagement and preventing burnout (Webcast), The University of Queensland & WLBS- Qld Pty Ltd. Retrieved from




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