What is resilience and why is it important to develop?

In response to the National Staff Survey 2021, the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust launched its Culture Awareness Programme for LUHFT Leaders.

The programme was designed to deliver a number of learning outcomes for staff, such as enhanced self-awareness, the importance of selfcare and continuous learning and reflection, to name but a few.

When the programme was launched, the then Interim CEO, Sir David Dalton, said, “Our ambition at LUHFT is to be a high reliability organisation with a culture of safe and effective teamwork, quality leadership and management, and a focus on continuous improvement and learning.”

He also highlighted, “Ultimately we know that colleagues who have a shared sense of purpose, who feel valued, supported, and included are able to deliver great care to the people we look after.”


One of the learning outcomes from these interesting and thought provoking sessions that struck a chord was the importance of “team resilience”.

What does “team resilience” actually mean and why is it important, especially in a NHS Trust that is changing, has a challenging environment and because of the nature of the work undertaken here can be very stressful?

We caught up with Robert Mawdsley, a local therapist, and asked him to share his thoughts on “resilience”. 

This is what Robert had to say on resilience.....

"Life is full of challenges, that is a given, and from time immemorial philosophers, religions, psychoanalysts and many others have grappled with how we as human beings can cope in the face of adversity and suffering. Recently of course the Covid pandemic has heightened stress levels for many, but throughout history people have had to manage significant threats to wellbeing such as family and relationship problems, serious health issues, bereavements, workplace and financial stress, and so on. Our recent forebears also had to deal with the existential threat caused by war, and we can see in the tv coverage from Ukraine and elsewhere the nature of trauma on the lives of ordinary people caught up in world events not of their own making.

And so from major catastrophic events to the everyday hassles of our daily lives, "Resilience" has become the watchword - the necessary quality to see us through. It is regarded as the process of adapting well to adversity, of "bouncing back" from problems. We hear phrases such as "a setback is a setup for a comeback", or, maybe a bit cruelly, "Pain is inevitable. Misery is optional".

Of course, in all of our lives, resilience is both admirable and necessary.  The alternative is a sense of simply being overwhelmed by life and its "Sea of Troubles", to quote Hamlet as he pondered whether his own life was even worth continuing. However, to regard it as an innate quality or characteristic - like the colour of one's hair - is mistaken. Resilience isn't something we automatically "have" but is something we can "learn". Rather like muscle growth, it needs to be exercised: modifying our beliefs about our situation, changes in our thought processes, and a willingness to act on them and see troublesome life-events as an opportunity for growth and creativity can help us through whatever the situation might be, and however difficult and painful it may seem at the time. Engaging in therapies, being with others in formal or informal support groups, being confident enough to share anxieties with family, friends and loved ones, having some form of Spiritual life, are ways in which resilience can be built up. It might not change the situation itself, often it cannot do that, but - with time and perseverance - it allows for the personal growth necessary to manage much better, and to become more able to face and deal with stress in the future. As has been wisely said - "You can't change the wind but you can adjust your sails".

Suffering, in all its forms, is part of the human condition and to a greater or lesser extent in life, it can't be avoided. In the end though, Resilience is the human heart's ability to suffer but also to help us navigate the problem and empower us to grow and to improve our life. When considering such important matters, it is seldom that the musings of rock stars of the psychedelic era are profound. However, one such, the singer- songwriter Grace Slick, said one thing that seems quite sensible in this context: "Loss either teaches you to persist in the face of suffering, or hardens you into a bitter cynic. Sometimes, it does a little of both".

The task of becoming resilient is to emphasise the former and put away the latter in a place where it doesn't hurt you or anyone else. It really is the only way to grow and to truly, to quote the great psychoanalyst Carl Rogers, "Become a person".

Thank you, Robert 😊