Stepping out of my comfort zone and helping others do the same: “What’s it like to work round here?”

Anna Collins, Lead Nurse, Outpatients, South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre

So, I was delighted to have been chosen for the Inspire Improvement Programme (supported by the Burdett Trust for Nurses), I thought I understood what to expect, but I realise now that I didn’t. Prior to attending the first two days, the team had asked me what it was I was going to do. I found I didn’t really know what to say so instead I regaled them with tales of looking at workplace culture and a bursary to improve things around here, for the team and to benefit our patients of course. Examining that answer now, after my first two Inspire programme days, I realise how I deflected the question because I really didn’t know the answer! But I’ve also realised that my answer was very much about me not the team. The programme days have given me the opportunity and space to consider and reframe my thoughts and I would now answer that question in a very different way, hopefully more honestly and in a more inclusive way.

I worried throughout the workshop days that I wasn’t doing it right. I worried that the name badge I made on the first night was substandard and not good enough. As an adult I don’t think I’ve been asked to be creative, to challenge the way I think or express myself in such a creative way. This felt unnatural and awkward. However, the group of people on the programme were truly lovely, more than I could have hoped for, non-judgemental, kind, inclusive and honest about their challenges, both professionally and personally. We all share the goal of wanting to improve workplace culture and facilitate a strong and productive team to enable us to provide the best care to our patients.

So with my creative juices flowing and feeling inspired on my return to work, I read through all my programme information and set about planning how I was going to start, feeling both excited and apprehensive. I drew a large tree on several pieces of paper with the question, “What’s it like to work here?” I put my home-made poster on the wall with some trepidation and explained to my staff what I was setting out to do and unsurprisingly there were a few raised eyebrows. At the bottom of the tree, as you can see, I filled a small basket with Easter eggs. The basket contained post-it notes, the idea was to trade a comment for a treat. Within a few hours, post-it notes with comments started to appear and the treats were starting to be taken. This filled me with a sense of delight, I was really pleased and relieved that the team had contributed and also they had also written some very positive comments, such as: “The team is caring” and “I feel well supported”.

A few days have passed now and the basket is empty, I have a variety of comments on the poster both positive and negative. I feel surprisingly happy about this as I feel it gives me something to build on together with my team. I sense a change, I am relieved that the team have participated so far and I realise that this is just the first step. I no longer feel that this is my journey, I feel that this is our journey. My plan now is to categorise the comments to try and identify themes and then encourage the team to discuss these at the next team meeting to establish a way of moving forward and using the information we have collated. I hope this will be something we can all do together.

I would encourage anyone considering what’s important to their team to ask the question “What is it like to work here?” The responses were not as negative as I thought and as a result of me asking the question, I feel there has been a positive shift already, perhaps it was enough for the team to know that I was listening?

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