Collaboration, participation and inclusion

Kim Thomas, Integrated Manager and FoNS Inspire Improvement Fellow

I work for Cardiff and the Vale University Health Board, as Integrated Manager in the Crisis Recovery Unit (CRU). We support clients who are in mental health crisis and who are on the point of hospital admission or who have been discharged early from the Crisis Assessment ward. Our unit allows for clients to be supported in the least restrictive way and enables them to maintain a presence in the community from the familiarity of their own homes. The CRU team consists of approximately 14 staff, made up of mental health nurses and occupational therapists. We offer a very relaxed and person-centred unit, where clients are able to work towards their own personal recovery, supported by a team who care deeply about valuing every person’s journey.

When I was offered a place on the Inspire Improvement Fellowship Programme I was overjoyed, and as the months have passed, I have felt more and more privileged to have been given this fantastic opportunity. Through the medium of creativity, I have been able to discover so much about how I think and feel, things that I had not even considered. It also turned my focus onto how our staff are feeling. I had not really considered our team’s working culture or asked staff members what values they held dear in the workplace, I had assumed that they would share my vision and were motivated by the same factors as me. I have now grown to see that we are a collective and that concerns or gaps in practice that present can be looked at from the viewpoint of all involved stakeholders. If we work collaboratively based on shared reasoning, we will be much more likely to come up with successful outcomes. I have come to realise that our team does not need to be ‘dragged’ but to ‘be walked alongside’ with my role as facilitator to ensure we keep on the shared direction we have chosen. With this approach, positive change is made simpler and meaningful, the process evolves naturally in the way that inspires all involved parties.

The opportunity to access a bursary from FoNS has meant that the unit has been able to book an away day, where we will be able to practice developing the use of co-creative arts for wellbeing. The workshop produced by Breathe Creative will involve the use of creative medium to promote and support positive change. The team are all looking forward to this amazing opportunity; we hope that by working together creatively on art projects, we will be able to learn more about our strengths as a team and show exactly what can be achieved when working in a collaborative, informed way.

I cannot stress enough how important the experience of being a FoNS Fellow has been for my development as a facilitative leader. I wish that I could have accessed the programme many years ago when I first took up my present role. The programme has enabled me to identify my own strengths and weaknesses by the process of critical questioning and using creativity to access thoughts and feelings in a unique way. The process has been transforming. Post Covid our team, like many others, were drained and just getting through from day to day, there was little energy left to consider new ways of working or innovation or change in any shape or form. Working in collaborative, inclusive and participatory ways will enable us as a team, to move forward with an entirely different and much more motivational approach. On a personal level, I feel more enthusiasm and even excitement in my role and cannot wait to facilitate this process further to enable it to become instilled in our workplace culture.

The Fellowship has literally changed my outlook, not only on leading a team but also in my day-to-day life, trying to discover the view points of others around us in a quiet, enquiring and non-judgemental way has meant that I no longer make stereotypical, quick judgements about others. A huge thank you to the facilitators and all the Fellows who have taught me so much. I am really looking forward to the two-day event coming up in the summer where we will all get together in person to continue our learning and development.

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