Dr Margaret O’Rourke is a practicing Clinical Psychologist, researcher and medical educator. She is also a board member and Clinical Director of Ag Eisteacht. After graduating from University College Cork (UCC), she completed a Masters in Psychological Medicine at the School of Medicine University of Glasgow and a doctorate in Forensic Clinical Psychology at Surrey University.
Dr O’Rourke is currently based in the School of Medicine at UCC, where she leads on Psychological Medicine and on preparing and supporting the well-being of medical students and doctors in her role as the Director of Behavioural Science.
Dr O’Rourke has published and presented on a wide range of important health topics and has successfully helped hundreds of patients and clinicians to reduce stress and anxiety, while increasing healthy coping, well-being and resilience.
She is a chartered Consultant Forensic and Clinical Psychologist (BPS/HCPC UK) and is a chartered scientist with the British Science Council.
“What I love about Ag Eisteacht is their focus on relationships in frontline practice because relationships are a key social determinant of health and wellbeing.”
Dr Margaret O’ Rourke knew from her mid-teens that clinical psychology was something she wanted to explore.
She was particularly interested in providing preparation for practice and psychological upskilling for those in frontline medical and healthcare roles.
Her grandfather, father and uncle had all been medics and her mother a dentist, so she had seen first-hand the emotional labour and cost of caring. The daily stress they were working under had taken its toll on their health, yet they continued to give and to care without any tangible psychological strategies or support.
“I saw their stress and I watched them manage very high levels of pressure, day-in, day-out,” she said. “It struck me that there must be a better way of helping clinicians to mind themselves while caring for others.”
Throughout her clinical and academic career to date, every role Margaret has held, and every piece of research she has undertaken, has led her on her path to founding The LifeMatters Academy, an education, research and science group that aims to improve lives and actively promotes health, wellbeing and resilience across the lifespan.
SAFEMED is an evidence-based wellbeing and performance programme under that – designed to help manage stress, prevent burnout & keep health professionals well.
SAFEMED programmes take a whole person ( bio-psychosocial ) approach to positive mental health, wellbeing and resilience, as Margaret explains: “The programmes take body, mind, spirit and context into account to provide a framework and tools to support those who are on the frontline to stay healthy and well.
“Doctors and others in healthcare roles tend to be inherently compassionate they go above and beyond for their patients, often failing to recognise stress and fatigue escalating in themselves. It is vital that they learn the right skills to put on their own mask first for safety and that they build and maintain self-care. Stress is not the problem; unmanaged stress is the issue. SAFEMED provides a prevention strategy for doctors in training and doctors in practice. Improving health professional wellness helps provide better, safer healthcare.”
In the same way that Ag Eisteacht focuses on relationships, Margaret’s work is all about healthy relationships with self and others.
“We are multi-sensory, bio-psychosocial beings and we affect each other’s emotions, so how we communicate, listen and interact with others and with ourselves has a huge impact on our health and wellbeing,” she said.
“This is why I am so interested in Ag Eisteacht’s work and how the charity is developing practitioners’ communication and interpersonal skills to help them to engage and build quality relationships for better health and wellbeing outcomes.”
Through the LifeMatters Academy, Margaret has worked on many high-impact public safety, child protection, mental health, doctor health and well-being programmes in the UK, USA and Canada, helping hundreds of patients and clinicians to reduce stress, anxiety and increase healthy coping, well-being and performance.
“There are many synergies between our work”, she said. “For example, the managing boundaries element of Ag Eisteacht’s ABLE brief intervention model is interesting, because giving practitioners the skills and tools to support relationships while also helping them “to manage the load and emotional toil of the work” is a subject close to my heart.
“Active and reflective listening (learning to listen and listening to learn) also plays an essential role in my work and it is great to see Ag Eisteacht training frontline workers in this core skill.”
Dr O’ Rourke will share insight, expertise and resources here on wellbeing and self-care for practitioners to support our advocacy work and our many collaborative initiatives in supporting the emotional and psychological wellbeing of professionals in frontline roles.