Welcome to my latest blog and this time I’ll be focusing on what it means when we say we’re living our values. My name is Elaine Appelbee and I am the independent Chair of the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership.
Like most people connected with the NHS, as well as having a role I am also a patient. This summer I had to go to my local hospital, as a day patient, for an investigation.
On my way to the ward, I noticed some bold, colourful painting on the corridor walls explaining the values and behaviours that the hospital staff attempt to live and work by. Today was going to be interesting, not only personally as a patient, but also now as Chair of the Partnership Board. Without meaning to, I was going to be like one of those secret shoppers!
I was welcomed on the ward and settled into a bay with three other women. We were all there for the same procedure and shared our thoughts and nervousness as people do. Going for an invasive investigation carries two sets of nervousness – the first about the procedure itself, and the second about the results that follow.
The staff were friendly and hospitable – making us tea and offering breakfast as we did not have to fast. There was an abundance of compassion and empathy. Two examples stand out. One nurse took us through what was to happen, and seeing our nervous faces, said that she wished there was some way to convey just how fine it was going to be. Her confidence helped to settle our nerves. I am one of those people who is a challenge for those who have to try to get blood from my veins. The nurse given this thankless task managed to get some out in the end, but was genuinely upset that it must have involved pain for me.
All the staff looking after us told us how much they loved their work and being part of the team on that ward. This was said more than once, and by each of them through the day. As I had been last on that day’s list for the procedure, I was the last person to be discharged from the bay. Two of the staff came in to wash down the beds that had been used by my three companions. They chatted to me as they worked, explaining that it was a job they liked to complete before the change of shift, even though it wasn’t expected of them. They explained that they did it as a way to support the incoming shift. One less job for them to do later when the ward could be busy, but the number of staff on duty would be fewer. This reminds me of fantastic initiative that has been developed locally called 15 seconds, 30 minutes – this link takes you to a blog on the Health Foundation’s website. There are lots of other great examples out there too.
It is one thing for someone to say that they enjoy being part of a team. The proof of commitment to the team is in the action that this promotes. The two staff members’ action of cleaning the beds to save their colleagues work later in the day, spoke volumes.
Staff and patients are two sides of the same coin. If we want to deliver the best, compassionate, empathetic care for patients, then staff need to be in an environment that promotes those values between staff team members. I see and follow, the work of all our local health trusts to build up and support their staff to be the best they can be. This work is testament to our shared determination that staff working in the NHS in Bradford District and Craven are valued, and feel valued. The fruits of that approach was on show in abundance when I spent the day on that ward.
The reassuring nurse was right, the procedure was as she described and absolutely fine. The staff team carrying out the investigation, were kind, professional and skilled. They were patient, listening and answering questions as needed. All four us ended our visit feeling positive. We had been given a full explanation of what had been revealed, and provided with ongoing treatment plans where necessary.
I left the ward in the late afternoon musing on the unexpected fact that if it was possible to have a good day out in hospital, I had just experienced it. I didn’t want to reveal to you until now where I had been for my treatment as I wanted you to read more about my experience. Thanks to all those involved in my care at Airedale Hospital. Proud to be associated with you. You have demonstrated what living our values when no one is looking means.
Elaine Appelbee (you can find me on Twitter @elaineappelbee)
Independent Chair for Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership Board