WORK-REST-PLAY: A flourishing SEED journey

Karen McDonald, Padmini Pai, Stephanie Lavis, Christopher Marjoribanks, Sharon Williams, Leanne Cummins and Paula Lavis

Mae West said ‘You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough’. This is our story; it’s about a group of us who dared to flourish in a day! We did it right the first time and felt flourishing in the right way needs one good go! We are a multi-disciplinary group of nurses, allied health workers and corporate staff who make up the SEED staff wellbeing team for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, part of NSW Health in New South Wales, Australia.

We started the day asking ourselves ‘What does flourish mean to me?’ This was a very powerful question from the facilitator. We then created hexagons (see figure 1, right) of answers that magically formed a pattern. Patterns of flourishing creates patterns of culture change. This enabled us to consider how we move from moments of flourishing to patterns of flourishing (Dewing and McCormack, 2017).

Figure 2: Words from the hexagons which blossomed into a meaningful flourishing poem

To me flourishing means

Caring enough to stop and listen.

This is the only way we can create change within our self.

We do this by being patient and kind to self and others.

As we practice constant nurturing of courage, strength, confidence and flexibility we create growth for the better.

When we feel heard, we flourish.

The flourishing process starts with one human at a time until all in our circle feel supported.

When we practice kindness in order to flourish and have good intentions, we can then release our limiting beliefs and grow from our experience.

This will filter down to juniors and new staff in order to create a positive culture of flourishing.

The second half of our session was facilitated by Dr Maria Mackay (Senior Lecturer, UOW, School of Nursing) which focussed on SEED: a method to cultivate person–centred (healthful) cultures. We then linked our work to the Person-centred Practice Framework (McCormack and McCance, 2017).

Dr Mackay took us on a journey of self-discovery through an activity to explore the linkages between SEED and the Ministry of Health’s, Elevating the Human Experience: A Guide to Action (NSW Government, 2021). The outcome was that at the core, people are at the heart of healthcare. Part of the activity emphasised the following key concepts:

  • That the human experience of life has many different aspects
  • It incorporates your greatest achievement and greatest regrets
  • The people that are significant in your life
  • Where you go to get away from it all
  • When are you most joyful etc.

This activity also highlighted how we all differ as individuals. To make a positive impact on others by valuing the human aspect of our interactions, knowing our stories all differ and our perceptions underpin behaviours.

Our learnings centred on how Elevating the Human Experience (NSW Government, 2021) and the Person-centred Practice Framework (McCormack and McCance, 2017) are at the heart of SEED. These linkages of people, place and process, working with the person’s beliefs and values and being sympathetically present are at the heart of a healthful culture and this is what SEED is about.

We then ended the day with a collective reflective practice session on practical impact of flourishing on front line work in real time. See figure 3 below


Figure 4: Collective insights at the end of the day on flourishing

  • It is idealistic to think every day will be a day of flourishing at work, when in reality we all have good days and bad days
  • If we start to notice patterns where we flourish, it makes the environment better
  • When overwork depletes us, we need to find what fills our cup
  • If we reduce the size of our cup, it is easier to fill our cup!! Keep it simple ‘small is all’. We need to combat ‘creativity fatigue’
  • If you go in with a positive response in any situation (be it patient care or team communication) you are more likely to get a positive response in return – this is true flourishing in the most tough times (how can we do this on a regular basis?)
  • It’s not what we did to someone, it’s how we made them feel
  • When we talk about person-centredness we talk about all people involved in care
  • We collectively need to be seeded and the SEED program can be a vehicle to collectively elevate our human experience

Being true to our own recovery and collective hope moving forward, we did some art work (see figure 5, right).

This piecing together of our free hand art work made us realise we are all in similar situations and our common journey in order to flourish is going back to our core purpose as health care workers. It is there that we meet our minds. When our heart and minds meet, we realise the importance of WORK REST AND PLAY as essential ingredients of flourishing!

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