The importance of celebrating and showcasing success in my team

Karen Kane, Unit manager of Ambulatory Care in Altnagelvin Hospital

Hello, my name is Karen, I am unit manager of Ambulatory Care (ACU) in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry, Northern Ireland. I am an Inspire Improvement Fellow 2019 and I am most certainly on an eye-opening positive journey! I have come back revitalised from our second two-day workshop and full of enthusiasm and excitement for myself and my team.

My first meeting with Jo (the FoNS facilitator) was back in February 2019. I invited her to come and visit me and as we sat in my office, she observed a notice board I had entitled ‘The ACU Solution Board’. Next came the question ‘Do you ever celebrate these solutions and successes?’. My instant reply was ‘I never really take time to celebrate success, I am constantly moving on to the next thing to change or improve’. That got me thinking!

I guess that Jo’s question really made me think about how I do things with my team. I hadn’t really taken time to reflect on the wonderful achievements we have made as a team. And if I did ever think about it, I most definitely didn’t verbalise it or communicate it with my team very well or consistently. I realised this had to change.

The  Inspire Improvement Fellowship programme follows the ethos of FoNS’ Creating Caring Cultures and encourages us to look at different methods and approaches. Using a different language with my staff such as ‘what is it like to work here?’, ‘how things are done here?’ and ‘what values do you hold as part of the team and for your patients?’ has opened a lot of interesting conversations within the team. Asking ‘what exactly do we mean by culture?’ has prompted staff to talk about how we do things best to benefit both our patients and our team. As a ‘manager’, we all have a duty to fulfil our ‘management’ roles, which are extremely important and include meeting key performance indicators and standards set out at a local trust level, regionally and nationally. However now, my new focus is finding the balance between a manager and being a visible leader in a successful thriving service. I am eager to develop my team, share learning, plan for the future and ensure we are always doing best for our patients and our team.

Understanding the values of our patients has also been particularly important from the inception of ambulatory care, as we have moved away from the notion that we must admit patients to hospital to get diagnosis and provide treatment. In spite of the evolution of how we provide our healthcare, we have never had any formal engagement process to ascertain constructive patient experience feedback. Getting feedback would help us to be able to reflect on how we were progressing, so we undertook a patient experience feedback survey through 10,000 More Voices that allowed us to capture the patients story and journey through our service. Feedback has been enlightening and created a very positive vibe within the team. In light of this positive feedback I am now more than ever driven to showcasing my team, celebrating success at every opportunity and keeping the momentum going through the participation of my team.

Reflecting on the last few months, we have focussed on our successes and found opportunities to celebrate within our team, all which have been highlighted on Twitter, through #Team ACU and our trust’s social media outlets. We have celebrated staff achieving 100% attendance, hosted an ACU Official 1st birthday breakfast celebration morning, involved staff in celebrating Acute Medicines Awareness week 2019 and celebrated the ACU team’s participation and success in completing Safety Quality West Quality improvement programme. I have introduced the use of EVOKE cards ( in team meetings, which have created a new way of allowing the team to express feelings and explore values and beliefs and offered those that are not as vocal the opportunity to be heard and listened to. Feedback from the team has been very positive. This month we launch a monthly ‘ACU Staff Recognition Award’ that will be voted for by our team. It will reflect a story of how someone has demonstrated inspiring leadership skills and gone above and beyond for the team or our patients.

I never knew the impact that celebration and involvement of my team would bring. I was never too sure how its benefits could be measured but gave it my all. This sadly only became apparent to me recently as I watched how my team supported me and each other through a sudden tragedy within our team. My ‘golden moment’ was observing how they conducted themselves both professionally and personally during this difficult time. My staff were not asked, instead they chose to take the lead, to be there for each other and ensured there would be no impact on the service we provided, whilst working through their own grief in a dignified manner. I have a new-found admiration for my team and I have been repaid tenfold for involving them more.

I am so grateful to FoNS for opening up my mind, encouraging me to think outside the box and offering me the support and resources to progress through this journey with my team.

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