EFPA interviews: Concetta Mazza from AUSL Bologna

A new interview in the EFPA News Magazine informs about the progress of the H-WORK project and provide insights into the role of the different partners of the consortium. EFPA is one of the 14 partners of the H-WORK project. This time, Bruna Zani interviewed Concetta Mazza, Director of the Corporate Wellness Group for the AUSL of Bologna.

1. Can you present us your team and the role of the members in the H-Work Project?

The AUSL team in Bologna is composed of professionals from different fields:

  • Dr. Alice Franceschini is a psychologist with years of experience in clinical and occupational psychology. She works in the project as principal researcher in close collaboration with the other members of the AUSL team and with UNIBO team.
  • Dr. Concetta Mazza is an executive biologist, Head of the UOS “Health and Cross-Sectoral Risk Management, Wellness Promotion and Countering Occupational Distress (SS).” She is in charge of risk assessment for health workers and directs the Corporate Wellness Group, a working group with a multidisciplinary team specifically trained to address situations of work and/or organizational distress. She coordinates the activities of the HW project for the Azienda USL of Bologna.
  • Dr. Paola Pesci is a Health economist with twenty years’ experience in the public healthcare sector. She has acquired solid background in planning and implementing policies for HR management and professional development within public health organizations and institutions. In the last five years as Grant officer of Azienda USL of Bologna and Istituto delle Scienze Neurologiche, she has supported European/International projects and collaborations. Her role in H-Work project is to manage administrative and financial contacts.

2. What is the role of your organization in the H-Work Project?

AUSL is one of the largest public healthcare  organisations  in  Italy  in  terms  of  size (it has over 20.000 structured employees) and  care complexity that requires collaborations between and within professions, roles, departments and structures so it has been selected as the main intervention site in Italy. The target group of the interventions is made up of about 3,000 employees including healthcare professionals, nurses and physicians, female, and male, working in Emergency Units and in Chronic Disease Treatment Units (Medicine, Neurology). This area is closely related to situations that can facilitate occupational distress, especially regarding to the recent Covid pandemic. Actions will consist of implementing interventions, aiming at promoting and developing individual resilience, team cohesion, working ability, positive leadership style, better working conditions and job design, equal opportunities, and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions.

3. What has your team accomplished in the project so far (results)?

We conducted individual and group interviews with managers, representatives, and civil service employees. Workshops were organized to better understand the needs of the company’s workers and based on the findings. The four interventions we implemented were carried out on the different levels according to the IGLO (Individual, Groups, Leader, Organization) model, including stress management courses at the individual level, interventions on team communication at the group level through digital solutions (sociomapping and positive social interaction), workshops on positive leadership development and job redesign.

In positive stress management interventions, participants first identify their most relevant and recurrent sources of stress at work and at home, then Mindfulness  is  introduced  as  a  tool  to  allows a positive reappraisal of difficult situations and is taught to recognize and exploit character strengths to facilitate finding alternative solutions and strategies to deal difficulties, according with the GROW model (goal-reality-options-will) to foster long-term adaptive coping strategies. Also, in positive social interaction and positive leadership development interventions, Mindfulness is at the bottom of the work along specific trainings for a cognitive reappraisal.

Sociomapping is based on social network analysis and team coaching to improve communication through workshops guided by a map generated and based on the degree of communication perceived and desired by group participants among team members

Participants at individual and group level had the opportunity to integrate and use in their daily work what they learned in the training interventions with an increase in peer support and support from managers and subordinates.

4. What are you currently working on and what are the next steps?

Currently we have carried out all the planned interventions and finished the qualitative process evaluation. We are working on data and some papers for the dissemination of the project in the scientific community, we are collaborating with the other partners on the online platform.

5. What are your expectations regarding the outcomes of the project, after 2 and a half years of work? There has been a change re the initial expectations?

We are very satisfied for the performance of the project, more than 200 staff members participated in stress management training, leadership coaching and teamwork workshops and feedback received to date has been positive. The high number of completed questionnaires (more than 800 participants) also exceeded our expectations.

6. What are currently the main obstacles for your work in general and in the project?

One of the main difficulties affecting the process of interventions is the frequent turnover of staff, which makes it complicated – if not sometimes impossible- to maintain the same teams for a long time, also affecting follow up evaluations.

Moreover, the very nature of the activity of our company represents a difficulty in conducting planned activities, as there are emergencies that require the presence of professionals, in a way that cannot be foreseen.

7. What has been (and still is) the impact of COVID on the work of your organization for the project?

Being a health care company, AUSL has had to deal with the pandemic emergency firsthand, in every side, both in organizational management and in medical care. The hospital had to reorganise spaces and activities, conduct ad hoc training, establish new health and safety procedures, ensure high hygiene standards, and provide both personal protective equipment and new infrastructure. In addition, a special task force had to be set up to support the health staff in dealing with the emergency. So, the impact of the covid, even at the psychological level, on the practitioners was certainly of an important magnitude, and the HWORK project turned out to be an important help in such a drastic situation.

8. What is the biggest strength of your organization in advancing the project?

Definitely communication. Given the large size of AUSL, the focus on continuous improvement of organization and communication allows us to strengthen the structure and network within it, so that in turn facilitates collaboration.

9. How do you think your organization and EFPA can collaborate?

Mental health is among the primary areas of responsibility for AUSL activities:  EFPA, by helping to disseminate news and programs at the European level, can be an excellent channel for our country to stay up-to-date and have the opportunity to align and participate in different initiatives.