Who or what inspires you to be courageous?

Jo Odell, FoNS Practice Development Facilitator

I’m not sure if it’s me, but every time I look at the news it seems we live in unsettled times. I acknowledge this might be me; as I get older I seem to take more notice of these things whereas they seem to pass my children by. Whatever the case, the shocking statistics about the sickness absence rate, as reported by the King’s Fund, in the NHS is higher than in the rest of the UK economy, and that doesn’t take account of all the health and social care workers who work in private, charitable or social care. The blog continues ‘it should come as no surprise that the mental health of NHS staff is increasingly under pressure. Workforce shortages are rife, with 96,000 vacant posts in NHS trusts, even as the demand for care continues rises relentlessly each year’. With knowledge of these statistics, it would be easy to think that all is lost. But we all know that there are people and teams out in the health and social care sector who are working quietly away to care for their patients and provide inspiration for others in the way they are building a movement to improve both the experience for patients/ service users and the people they work with. My recent inspiration has come from a general practice nurse (GPN) who I met by accident.

As a singing member of Spinnaker chorus for the last 11 years, I have been looking for ways to contribute more to our community and so when I watched the Dementia choir on the BBC in May this year, I had some ideas of how our chorus could involve more people to help them to sing and learn new songs. Previously we have performed for many different audiences, but this was a new venture to help people with memory problems to learn new songs and start to learn how to sing in ‘acapella’. Through local contacts, I found a memory café that runs locally and is led by a general practice nurse. In September, 15 chorus members joined me at the café and we helped both people living with dementia and their carers to learn some simple warm up songs and even managed to get people to sing in two rounds. We had some great feedback and everyone seemed to be having fun singing along. We hope to run a singing workshop at the café on a quarterly basis and then see where we progress to.

While I have been singing with the chorus for some years, it was quite a leap of faith for me to lead people to learn new songs. In the early days of preparation, everyone kept reassuring me and I felt having the skills of the ladies from the chorus behind me, we would muddle through. And in fact we did. But what most inspired me to have a go was the general practice nurse, who has such great passion for caring for people in her community with a dementia. She works tirelessly with her GPN colleagues, GPs and local charitable organisations to set up and run the memory café, which is held monthly in the village hall. It is a bright and happy atmosphere that provides a safe space for some coffee and cake as well as providing support for people living with memory problems and their carers. You may say this is not unusual, there are memory cafés everywhere: yes, there are but they are usually run by specialist older person services or specialist dementia charities. What so inspired me in this situation was this nurse had seen a gap in her community and had developed relationships with people who can help to bridge that gap. What stands out about this person for me is her passion and ‘can do’ attitude, as well as her ability to develop relationships with people. All of these have helped her to achieve great things for the people she wants to help.

Inspiration is a key part of FoNS’ ethos. As an organisation we aim to ‘Inspire, enable and improve’ and one of our programmes (for nurse team leaders) is the Inspire Improvement Fellowship. We hope our programmes will ‘inspire’ participants who in turn, will inspire others. We know this is not a simple process, and that health and social care workplace cultures are complex, needing skilled leadership and facilitation. But we believe that the opportunity for fellows to develop connections with like-minded, passionate people, in similar roles across the UK can help them find their own inspiration. And with inspiration, comes hope.

So who, or what is your inspiration?

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