Author's Posts

Last year I started to talk to John Kennedy about policies, procedures and paperwork. This started when I was preparing for my CQC interview to become a registered manager with Wellbeing Teams and had to show a range of policies and procedures. This blog brings together conversations with John about paperwork and asking some fundamental questions about Care Plans.

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I was still occassionally tweeting over the festive period and a tweet from @Drmarkredmond to his students caught my eye. Mark and his students have been looking at Generation X and social care  and Mark’s tweet linked to an article in the Guardian called, “Why it’s difficult to attract younger people into the care sector.” The article refers to what is being described as a national crisis of recruitment and retention of social care workers. The usual solutions to this are presented –  increasing awareness of the value of social care and the importance of value based recruitment. I wonder if what we need is something more fundamental to this, about the way that home care works. The way we organise rota’s may be an important part of this.

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Last week reinforced for me how important social workers are in how Wellbeing Teams develop. I was working with senior leaders in Wigan and Martin Walker from Think Local Act Personal, on how we can introduce Individual Service Funds. This means that we want to look link social work assessments and paperwork with the paperwork used in homecare, to make it seamless for people and reduce any duplication. We also want to work as ‘Trusted Assessors’ and work with social work colleagues in that role. So our relationship with social workers is critical to our success, and I wanted to invest in help and support to get that right. This is where Ali comes in, as I have asked  her to be our advisor to support us to pay attention to the wellbeing of social workers in how Wellbeing Teams develop. I asked Ali to introduce herself, and why Wellbeing Teams matter to her. 

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The Wellbeing Support Team handook has been my labour of love over the last month. I have been trying to create something that expresses my hopes for our team, how we work, and how we live our values. This week I proudly gave copies to our new team as we welcomed Zoe and Vanessa who started with us on Monday. Michelle and Vanessa are the two coaches in our team, and their role is to support the Wellbeing Teams to flourish, self-manage and deliver compassionate, person-centred safe care. Our hope is that by doing this, we are able to keep our colleagues working with us, and have good staff retention. 

The Research by Gallup (featured in the book First Break all the Rules) has identified 12 questions that measure employee engagement and six that particularly relate to staff retention. If colleagues feel able to answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then they are more likely to stay with the organisation and be productive. In our Wellbeing Support Team handbook I have thought about how our different roles work together to try and make it more likely that people can say ‘yes’ to these 6 questions. I know that recruitment and retention are one of the biggest challenges in social care, we have not got all the answers to this, but I wanted to share what we are trying, and why these 6 questions matter.

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Are you born compassionate, or is it something you can learn and practice? Compassion is one of our values as a Wellbeing Team, and in our Value Based Recruitment we look for people who are compassionate, but should we see it as a skill you can teach instead?

I asked Caroline Bartle from 3 Spirit UK to share her views on this. 3 Spirit UK is a collaborative of social care practitioners and their goal is to improve social care practice. They achieve this goal in different ways but mainly through education. I asked Caroline to share her thoughts on compassion in social care, and what this means as a training provider.

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I met Rod two years ago at the Microsystems Festival in Jonkoping. I was immersed in my NHS Change Day Challenge of introducing one-page profiles in health and care, and talked to Rod about this. One year later, we were both back at the Microsystem Festival presenting on how Rod had introduced one-page profiles on Mallard Ward at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. I am delighted that Rod has agreed to be one of our Advisors in Wellbeing Teams. Our purpose is to do whatever it takes to support people to live well at home and feel part of the community. This means paying good attention to people’s health and in particular the reasons why people may end up in hospital. Rod is going to help us make sure we can do that. We are starting with a series of blogs together sharing Rod’s practical advice for keeping people well at home. I asked Rod to start by introducing himself here.

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As getting and keeping great staff is the greatest challenge in health and social care, what can we learn by thinking about it from the candidates perspective? In our next two blogs we think about approaching recruitment from the candidate’s perspective. If the process was designed around their experience, and not just in terms of an efficient organisational process, then what would this look like?  I asked Neil what he would recommend if we were starting with a blank piece of paper, and resources were no option, then how would he design  the ideal ‘customer journey’ for a candidate? What would we see if we were looking at it from that perspective?

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Shannon created Love Notes. I received my first Love Note from my friend and colleague Eric, at a retreat. The Love Note wished me luck with Wellbeing Teams. In August I met the Shannon in person. She is the Love Note Writer, a vibrant innovator creating public displays of affection and a fresh way to think about compassion in life and work. The Love Note that she sent me after that is on my mirror in the bedroom, it means a lot. For me, Love Notes are a practical example of compassion in action, so I asked Shannon to join our blog series about compassion at work. This is her story.

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This is the first in a series of blogs about compassion. Compassion is the first value of Wellbeing Teams, and I want to learn how to build this into everything we do. Last week Andy Bradley talked about Compassion Circles in our podcast, and today Mary Freer starts the blog series and introduces  Compassion Labs. Mary’s focus is on building Compassionate Leadership that will nurture a more mindful, resilient and kind workforce. I met Mary last year at an event organised by Jackie Lynton, and her energy, creativity and drive for change is palpable. She brings to the challenge of reforming our existing health and social care services a strong focus on long term, co-created, large-scale change. Change that has the individual right at the centre. Over to Mary.

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. L.R.Knost

It is now accepted that staff well being is an important antecedent for high quality client/patient experience ( Jill Maben 2016). We know that the way we treat each other at work has an  immediate and sometimes detrimental impact on the people we are caring for. Prof Amir Erez demonstrated in his 2016 study that rude and uncivil behaviour experienced at work impairs our capacity to perform our duties successfully. If one of our duties is to administer medication or intubate a patient this can have a catastrophic consequence (Erez, 2016; The Impact of Rudeness on Medical Team Performance: A Randomized Trial).

We also know that a compassionate work environment benefits caregivers who are likely to feel more engaged, less exhausted and have more satisfied clients/patients. Team members experiencing kindness at work will also have less sick days, be less likely to burn-out and will be inspired to perform more meaningfully in their work. (The Centre for Compassion, Altruism, Research and Education at Stanford University created this Infographic for Dignity Health).

Knowing all of this I created Compassion Lab so that people who work in health and social care could come together and learn about their capacity for compassion for others, and importantly for themselves. I think of compassion, not as a soft skill, but as a courageous and muscular set of actions and intentions that liberate all of us.

Compassion Lab is often delivered as a 2 Day workshop for up to 30 people. I want people to experience the accessibility  of mindfulness. Not in a spiritual or esoteric way but as an invitation that is open to us in every moment of our day. We step into that moment simply by being entirely present with each other without any judgement. I’m discovering that people are so accustomed to juggling and multi-tasking that they have mistaken that for efficiency. It’s only when we stop and attend to what is happening in this very moment that we realise how dangerously close to sleep walking we have become. So in some ways we wake up to the present moment.

We learn about the way our brain is wired to veer to the negative and to seek out potential for threat. This requires some corrective attention and a willingness to recognise when our sympathetic nervous system becomes up-regulated. We also spend time listening to our critical voice and our anxious voice and notice how quickly we can access their advice in any situation. We also discover how unhelpful and damaging our critical and anxious selves are. We spend some time giving ourselves the compassion we deserve as we practice loving kindness meditations and examine the calming effect compassion has on us.

I want people to come into a Compassion Lab and discover that compassion is about noticing the distress and suffering of others AND of ourselves and making a commitment to do something to alleviate that distress in every moment. I also want people to experience the energising quality of engaging in spacious conversations about the power of compassion in our lives.

At a Compassion Lab retreat we made this short video, I think you will get the sense of the love and the laughter that make these workshops sing.

I am excited about joining Mary in a Compassion Lab next year and to experience first hand this energy and insight, and will be sharing other opportunities for you to connect with Mary around compassion.


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