Program Planning

Staff Wellness

Two people talking.The concept of “nurturing the nurturer” recognizes two important dynamics: supporting others who are in a nurturing role and caring for yourself when your professional role largely focuses on the needs of others. Being a home visitor or a home-based supervisor is intensive and challenging work. You and your staff members must replenish your physical and emotional energy to meet the daily demands of the job.

You can create a work environment in which home visitors feel safe, validated, embraced, supported, and cared for in several concrete ways. Staff development, for example, is important for meeting the needs of program participants, but it also gives home visitors the message that they are important to the program. You can provide coaching, training workshops, and other professional development opportunities; arrange for mental health consultation on a regular basis; and accompany home visitors on joint home visits. Reflective supervision is also an important mechanism.

The supervisor also celebrates the work of home-based staff. You might do this informally during daily verbal or email conversations or formally by acknowledging home visitors’ accomplishments in a staff meeting or on a bulletin board, or by giving out certificates that mark progress in a certain area. Provide opportunities for peer support so home visitors can share experiences with and care for one another. In addition, offering staff mental health activities (e.g., bringing in a massage therapist, exercise trainer, or meditation coach; offering talks on stress management; impromptu meals) demonstrate that you care about staff members’ development and functioning. Talk with program administrators and/or human resources staff about providing a program-wide employee assistance program.

A focus on staff wellness is a particularly effective in reducing stress and avoiding burnout in home visiting staff members. However, even in the most nurturing environments, staff members can become disengaged from the work of the program. Notice if home visitors exhibit signs of stress or burnout, and work with them on how to address the issues they are struggling with. Ensure access to a mental health professional.

Signs of burnout include:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Feelings of being overextended or overwhelmed
  • Loss of caring for families and children
  • Decrease in level of accomplishment
  • Withdrawal from social and peer groups
  • Loss of hope and optimism
  • Feelings of cynicism and fatalism
  • Decreased sense of pleasure in work
  • Feelings of incompetence

Experience It

Amanda Perez, Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS NRC); Rosalba Bonilla-Acosta, Maryland program director, CentroNía; and Mary Ann Cornish, Higher Horizons, Falls Church, VA, and executive director, Early Head Start, talk about self-care in Early Head Start programs.

Reflect on the following questions after viewing the video:

  1. What does your program do to support home visitors in self-care?
  2. What do you do to take care of yourself?

Learn More

Early Essentials Webisode 6: Professionalism and Self Care

Discover the importance of self-care and professionalism for Early Head Start staff. Mary Ann Cornish, executive director of Higher Horizons, and Rosalba Bonilla-Acosta, program director of CentroNía, present.

Lessons in Leadership: Lead, Learn, and Pass It On

This video and guide are part of a series from the EHS NRC specifically designed to support Early Head Start leaders.

Nurturing the Nurturer

Many Head Start and Early Head Start program teachers at times struggle to remain positive, provide a nurturing environment, and comply with all the demands of their jobs. This webinar provides supportive strategies that may help caregivers deliver Head Start services in meaningful and enjoyable ways.

Relationship-Based Competencies to Support Family Engagement for Professionals Who Make Home Visits

Describes competencies for home visitors and supervisors and provides an assessment tool to reflect on knowledge, skills, and practices. The guide and self-assessment tools align with the HSPPS and the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework.

Taking Care of Ourselves: Stress and Relaxation

See Georgetown University’s Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation to learn how to identify your sources of stress and strategies to reduce stress.