Reflections on resilience

Winter 2014
Penny Campling

As a psychiatrist and group therapist, I have always been interested in organisations and how they can bring out the worst or the best in us. Over the last few years, I’ve been particularly preoccupied with the dysfunctional aspects of the NHS and the general worsening of morale among staff. Despite all the change – or perhaps because of it – there is an increasing sense of being stuck in a vicious circle. It’s increasingly common to hear staff members talking about ‘surviving’ and I pick up a deepening sense of collective helplessness.


I wrote this lecture after a visit to Berlin with my daughter who is passionate about twentieth century history.The visit has really focused my mind on how people survive difficult regimes and how change occurs.At the start of 1989, the majority of people in the GDR thought of the Berlin wall as a given, something that would always be there. By the end of November, it was no more. How this transformative change occurred fascinates me and, I think, raises important but difficult questions about the potential for collective action in the NHS.

First Paragraph

I’d like to start by acknowledging that people are here this evening [at the lecture] because of the wide sense of pressure and the growing personal cost involved in healthcare work at the present time. So, I thought I’d start
by sharing some thoughts about resilience, then move on to argue that it’s particularly important at this time that we are able to confidently articulate the positive values that should define our healthcare culture. I’ll end briefly outlining the concept of intelligent kindness.