ICU teams from around the world are enhancing well-being for staff by following the example of colleagues at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow.
Even before the dawn of Covid-19, a team at the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) RHC had recognised how vital it was to help staff to look after their physical and mental well-being while working in a stressful environment. The Intensive Care team looks after critically-ill children from all over Scotland, from babies up to the age of 16.
In the past few weeks their expertise has been shared around the world in a prestigious online journal.
Paediatric Consultant Dr Peter Donnelly said: “We started off with lots of little things, like making the staff room as relaxing as possible. We removed all the noticeboards, to avoid people looking at work issues when they were on breaks and replaced them with white boards where we could share tips on maintaining good mental health and fun items like staff challenges.
“We got the vending machines moved into the corridor to encourage staff to make healthier choices and made sure there was plenty of fresh water in the fridges.”
Since the pandemic, the wellbeing team has brought in additional support for staff.
Peter explained: “With much of the planned elective work in the RHC restricted, we have been able to benefit from the expertise of our psychologists, who have been running ‘tea break talks’, covering stress, trauma and bereavement.
“We’ve also been able to set aside a relaxation area with recliners, pillows, crosswords and music – a real ‘chill zone’, which is proving really popular.
“It’s all about making staff know they matter, supporting them in good times and bad and that they know they make a real difference. As a team we make a concerted effort to talk about positive things, even on the difficult days. I truly believe it’s a great, positive place to work.”
The wellbeing team wrote up all their ideas and findings – and the article has now been published on the Paediatric Critical Care Medicine forum.
Peter said: “It’s been really well received by the ICU community and I’m glad we’ve been able to share what’s worked for us here at the Royal Hospital for Children.”
One nurse to feel the benefit of the changes is staff nurse Eilidh MacLennan from Paisley.
“While we thankfully haven’t really been badly affected by Covid in our ward, we do deal with children who are very ill for other reasons and we get very attached to our long-term patients and their families.”
Eilidh points to the ‘take a minute’ room and a Friday zoom call, which she does on her day off at home, as the most tangible parts of the project.
She said: “It was our senior staff nurse Joanne Wylie that kicked it all off at the beginning. There’s been a real focus on wellbeing from Peter and other members of the team – he is very persistent! It’s so much more than a gimmick – there is now a real ‘how are you doing?’ culture, which the Covid situation has just accelerated.
“It’s the small things that make a difference. Peter will just appear with things….even if it’s just a bottle of water and a Kitkat….it make you know that someone cares.”