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Patient Voices: Healthy teams


Healthy teams

What happens when a ward is placed on special measures? How does this affect the team of people working there – the clerks, nurses, managers, health care assistants? What brings about the change necessary to return to effective working? These stories were created in two Patient Voices reflective digital storytelling workshops in late 2013. They are a testament to the dedication, commitment, openness and honesty of the staff, and provide invaluable insights into the motivations for, and processes of, change.

What motivates those who choose to take on the tasks that many of us would walk away from, those who become change agents in the most difficult of environments? For Bev, one key motivation is to help a system that helped her own family through tragic loss.

A kiss on the cheek
Kath loved her job as a healthcare assistant. She always had time to sit and chat with patients and was proud of the care they received on her ward and she felt appreciated by patients and staff. When changes at the hospital made it impossible to provide the kind of care her patients deserved, despite working 12 hour shifts, Kath didn’t give up. Eventually, a new manager took the time to get involved, thanked the staff, appreciated them. Kath loves her job once more and is proud to be part of the team.

Special measures
Caring for patients with cancer and those approaching the end of their lives requires a special kind of person. Kay always knew her team was special. But when her ward was put on special measures and the team told they were dysfunctional, the word took on a whole new meaning.

A rewarding ward
Working as an NHS ward clerk, Sarah finds her job stressful but rewarding. But it wasn’t always like this – staff shortages, constant moves between wards and lack of interest by management resulted in low morale and things often going wrong. The escape of a patient led to the ward being placed in special measures for eighteen months. This proved to be a turning point though with the appointment of a new manager who put in place additional support and staff, turning her hand to whatever needed doing. At last Sarah felt valued – she returned to her original ward and is pleased to be working on a rewarding ward again.

A lick and a promise
Stacey’s relationship with her nan is loving and caring, and forms the basis of her belief in how she should care for the patients on her ward. Staffing issues mean that she is reduced to giving them ‘a lick and a promise’ or grabbing a bag of crisps for lunch, rather than having the time to ensure the care they receive is what she wants to deliver. Only the placing of the ward on special measures and the arrival of a new manager provide a way back to being able to care as she feels she should.

Love and life, work and family
Confident and outspoken when necessary, Amy enjoyed her role as a healthcare assistant and had a happy work and home life balance. But this changed as her ward became more disorganised and chaotic, leading to Amy having to provide a reduction in her level of care. The final straw was a patient passing away alone and unnoticed by staff. Amy was left feeling devastated and lost her confidence, her feelings of anger and despondency impacting on her home and work life. The arrival of a new manager led to a new start for the ward, and the improvements put in place helped Amy to once again enjoy both her job and her family.

A time for reflection
As a child, Bev was always described as a born leader. Meeting up with childhood friends after 24 years, Bev was saddened to discover they’d lost their mother to breast cancer, a disease from which her own mother has now been given the all clear. As an oncology nurse, Bev enjoys leading and making things happen as well as watching those around her become leaders. She wonders if whether sometimes she just needs to be a follower and give others around her a chance to lead instead.

Anger, despair, or time to care?
Even though the oncology ward she works on is now well managed and a happy place to work, Elaine feels continuing anger that things were allowed to deteriorate until the ward was placed in special measures. How the ward is now is how it should always have been, for both patients and staff. Today Elaine has time to care for patients and although the bad memories remain, she finds it a privilege to care for patients at the end of their life.

Such a lovely ward
Rebecca loved her job as a ward clerk from day one but gradually she began to realise that things were not as they seemed. Lack of systems, poor communication, broken equipment and staff members in despair were just some of the issues she noticed. But the arrival of a new manager meant everything began to fall back into place. Today systems work well and everyone is so much happier – now Rebecca cannot imagine doing anything else.

The man in Bed 5
Pressured with too many tasks and too few staff, Laura realises her jobs are stacking up. Trying to stay positive, she tries to introduce herself to her patients but there’s no time. Laura realises she only refers to her patients by their bed number and feels beaten and defeated. But that was three years ago and now Ward 14 is a different place – today Laura has time to greet her patients and nurse them the way she should.

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