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NHS, games company and Birkbeck academics launch board game for doctors in distress

The game is based on research into the mental health of doctors and dentists, conducted by Dr Caroline Kamau and Dr Asta Medisauskaite.

A person playing new occupational health board game based on research by Department of Organizational Psychology’s Dr Caroline Kamau and recent Birkbeck graduate Dr Asta Medisauskaite

The NHS, in partnership with Focus Games Ltd, has launched a new occupational health board game for doctors and dentists in distress based on research by the Department of Organizational Psychology’s Dr Caroline Kamau and recent Birkbeck graduate Dr Asta Medisauskaite who is now working at UCL's medical school.

The game was developed in partnership with the NHS Practitioner Health Programme, a confidential award-winning treatment service for doctors and dentists unable to access confidential care through mainstream NHS routes due to the nature of their role and/or health condition.

The board game is part of a project called Working Stress which Dr Medisauskaite, Dr Kamau and Focus Games developed to help clinicians manage distress, building on the academics' systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2017 which found alarming levels of burnout, stress, sleep problems, depression and physical symptoms of stress such as gastric problems.

The academics then conducted a randomised-controlled trial that tested new occupational health interventions, inspiring Focus Games to work with them to develop Working Stress. The trial showed a reduction in hazardous drinking, insomnia, anxiety and burnout.

The new board game is designed for groups of doctors or dentists numbering between four and 12 players divided into two teams. The games last between 30-60 minutes and can be run as informal activities in the workplace, or as part of more structured training, inductions and workshops.

The game helps doctors and dentists to discuss and answer a series of questions, allowing them to acquire new knowledge, discuss ideas and learn from each other. These discussions are what make the game effective and help the clinicians learn about coping with work-related distress. There is also a pack of 'bonus' cards that offer activities for the doctors and dentists or that pass on useful information.

Dr Kamau said: "Work-related stress, burnout and other forms of distress are completely normal, human reactions. Doctors and dentists deal with highly stressful situations and this new board game will help those in distress gain peer support, also giving them psychological tools to tackle distress. I am immensely proud of my former PhD student, Dr Asta Medisauskaite. We are academics committed to doing socially impactful research and we are very pleased that the NHS is using our research to help doctors and dentists in distress."

Dr Medisauskaite said: “The Working Stress game helps to start sometimes very difficult conversation about stress and mental health in a safe environment, and helps healthcare professionals to reflect on their own and their colleagues’ experiences. I recently ran a workshop at a Wellbeing in the NHS conference to test the game. It was very well received by participants, who said that talking about stress this way helps to address important issues, like including and supporting everyone in a team.”

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