This blog explores the link between the exceptional service provided by St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley and the core processes it uses to support employee and volunteer resilience. Using a personal perspective. and referencing St Catherine’s recent Care Quality Commission Inspection, it describes the major benefits that this focus on resilence brings to patients, families, friends, and ultimately, the health of the nation.

As a facilitator and psychotherapist who runs resilience programmes, it’s usually my role to support other people in optimising their mental health.

Recently I was supported myself, sitting with a close friend and her family in St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, as she reached the end of her life. This provided me with, I believe, a profound experience of how a resilient, emotionally attuned workforce can help people who are dying feel at peace and deeply cared for, whilst creating the space where families can be with painful feelings without being overwhelmed. For my friend’s family and me, this enabled us to say goodbye in the way that mattered most to us.

The link between St Catherine’s exceptional service and the core processes it uses to support employee and volunteer resilience is reflected in its 2016 Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection, which rates the hospice as ‘outstanding’. Below I highlight how St Catherine’s nurtures meaning and purpose and a sense of control amongst staff and volunteers, which are key contributors to personal and team resilience.

Meaning and Purpose

Researchers into resilience show how a sense of meaning at work helps people ‘go the extra mile’.

A charity dedicated to specialist end of life care obviously provides great purpose. However this is surely deepened by the framework of support provided to staff that the CQC records. This includes regular in depth supervisions, ‘Shwarz rounds’, where multi disciplinary teams discuss the emotional and social challenges of their work, and an ‘embedded culture of learning’. These measures enable staff to reflect on their sense of purpose and translate it into continually improved practice.

St Catherine’s strong, shared sense of purpose was felt by my friend’s daughter, who described its impact: ‘everything was set up around what we and mum needed. As a result I could relax from my long fight to get her quality care and just be her daughter’.

Control and Influence

As Cary Cooper notes [1], to feel our best at work and perform at the highest level, we must have a significant say in how services are delivered.

The CQC identifies many ways in which St Catherine’s employees have influence. They are ‘encouraged to raise issues of concern and know they will be acted upon’, contribute proactively to organisational change, such as the implementation of an electronic recording system, and participate in an embedded structure of meetings concerning quality assurance. As the CQC report records, this engenders a collective attitude of: ‘if we are not happy it is our responsibility to say so’.

The confidence and responsibility this open, participative culture instills was evident in the service provided. For example, when nursing care staff were busy, the receptionist and drinks trolley volunteer responded immediately to requests for crushed ice, without pausing to consider whether this was their job.


Organisational Resilience and the Health of the Nation

In her 2008 report ‘Working for a Healthier Tomorrow’[2], Dame Carol Black identifies work as a source of self worth, social participation and fulfillment. St Catherine’s contributes to the health of the nation through organisational structures that encourage staff and volunteer resilience.  In turn this enables patients, families and friends to let go, grieve and live: surely a major contribution to our national psychological health. 

St Catherine’s CQC report provides insight and inspiration on employee resilience: It’s a valuable read for any organisational leader and can be found at:

Heather Wignall,  Coach and Facilitator, UKCP Registered Psychotherapist. 

In memory of Pat Cawdron who gave me permission to share this experience of St Catherine’s, and her children Anthony and Gill who approved this blog.


[1] Cooper, C, Flint-Taylor, J, Pearn, M (2013) Building Resilience for Success; A resource for managers  and organisations: Palgrave MacMillan: UK

[2] Black, C (2008): Working for a Healthier Tomorrow: Dame Carol Black’s review of Britain’s working population; Department of Work and Pensions: UK

If you are a CEO, senior leader, HR Director or senior manager with an interest in mental health at work, attend the event on September 13th (2 pm to 8 pm) that is being co-hosted by Dynamic Voice, a learning and development consultancy, and Maytree Suicide Respite Centre. This highly interactive event will contribute to the vital organisational debate on mental health at work, challenge the mental health taboo, and identify practical actions that organisations of any size can take to enhance mental health at work.

For more information see our event information:

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