Thank you for the fantastic feedback on my previous posts! It has been heartening to connect with so many people from around the world in so many ways via this blog and even more so on Twitter! In my last post, I shared my views on the importance of a healthy work-study-life balance and having the courage to make bold decisions to maintain a healthy mental well-being.
I would now like to share a flavour of some of the experiences I’ve had in the first month of my secondment into an operational management role in the National Health Service (NHS). My quest for ‘headspace’ and time to reflect on my contribution so far and think ahead to my future contribution to healthcare has been enlightening. I have met and worked with some of the fantastic staff in many roles that keep the NHS alive. They often go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that patients are well taken care of while in our care in hospital. I use every opportunity to ‘big them up’ and we share our experiences in our daily encounters. While doing this recently, one of the staff who I had just met suddenly exclaimed “so you are the lady that we have all heard about!” This sounds ominous I thought… He then explained that he had heard about my style of leadership from staff who had worked with me in my previous role.
One of the main differences that I have found as a service manager when I think about it is that while I am still expected to be aware of and take actions to maintain patient flow, reduce length of stay and improve the experiences of patients, carers and staff, I have more time to make time for people. Ironically, I feel that I have more time now to speak to staff and ask them genuinely, “how are you today?”, “is there anything that I can help you with to make your working life better?” and wait for them to respond than I did previously. Is it in my head? I don’t think so. We still have the usual fire fighting that unfortunately seems to have become embedded into the healthcare culture. However, I feel better placed to cut through some of the ‘red tape’ on behalf of staff to make their working lives that much easier. This has reinvigorated me and given me a purpose. So, you can help patients while having no direct patient contact. I’ve struggled with the idea of not being a bedside nurse in the past. However, my anxiety regarding the change in roles has been eased by the respect that I receive from staff.
I am sure that my extensive nursing background has prepared me to take on senior leadership roles within a range of healthcare environment. In fact, staff tell me directly that they respect me even more in this role because they know that I will advocate for them and have their best interests at heart. This fills me with joy because that is exactly what I aim to do. Rather than asking staff for the same information that the bed and site managers have already asked and the matron has also requested. I tend to ask them “is there anything you need to escalate to me for me to action on your behalf?” This is usually met with a pause and a raised eyebrow and then they usually say “not right now Nichole but we’ll let you know if things change, thanks for asking”. This is one way of showing compassion to staff, just by being approachable and leaving the door open for them to feel safe to come to you in the future.
I would encourage more clinical staff especially nurses to explore the opportunities to enter into the world of operational health management to bring the compassionate, personal touch to the role. We know what it is like for the frontline clinical staff and we have the compassion, empathy and clinical credibility to foster supportive and caring working environments for staff which will have enormously positive health benefits for patients.
Oh yes before I forget! On the PhD front, I have re-drafted the research proposal and it now has more meat on the bones and feels like it will actually be possible to achieve and worthwhile to do. Progress indeed! However, earlier this week, I had hit what appeared to be a brick wall when a review of the literature highlighted a lack of research into my chosen topic of ‘Experiences of Older Patients of Black Caribbean Ethnicity in Hospital: Exploring Culturally Competent Compassion’. Then I thought, stop panicking, this just means that my research should be ground breaking! 😂
On the whole, I would say that if the first month is anything to go by, I feel optimistic and assured that I will be able to achieve the work-study-life balance that I set out to achieve in my quest to spread culturally competent compassion across the land. Well, I am an optimist after all!
For more on my journey and a laugh on the way, follow me on Twitter: @McIntoshNichole Or https://www.twitter.com/mcintoshnichole