On Friday I had the great pleasure of spending a clinical day going back to the floor, reconnecting with our staff and patients.
When I start in a new organisation the first thing I like to do is to get out and about to the clinical areas to get a real feel for the place. This is a habit I developed when I was a graduate and spent three months on my orientation exploring all jobs in the hospital and wider system.
I spent the morning in our children’s hospital, the Evelina London, shadowing their Director of Nursing. We headed onto Savannah ward, our cardiology high dependency ward. Starting out at the top of the ward we examined the stock cupboard and tested the stock system – quite tricky! We examined the cleanliness of the ward – a deep clean was in progress – and checked the kitchen and clinical areas. This gave us a good feel for the management of the ward.
Next stop was to meet the patients and their parents. We met Kayla, a 17 month old little girl with heart failure, who was on the transplant list and had been in our care since Monday. We chatted to Kayla’s mum who told us that she was usually cared for at Great Ormond Street. This presented a great opportunity to find out what we were doing well, but more importantly, what we could improve. Kayla’s mum was hugely complimentary about the nurses and the care they had shown by laundering her clothes, as she was sleeping on the ward on the pull down beds next to the cot. She was also impressed by the deep clean she had seen going on over the past couple of days. It was great to hear about such good care, although we also learned a lot about how we could do better.
We then chatted to the ward sister about her patients and the integrated care record. I asked her what brings her joy at work, at which point she completely lit up and talked about how much she loved her job and the nursing team at the Evelina (she is a Nurse Educator). She spoke about the wards, staff and patients with such love. It really gave me a sense of what a happy team the Savannah ward are.
We then had a further walk through the orthopaedic ward and met the matron who told me an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking story about a little boy – Ewan – who was born with a genetic condition that is severely disabling and means his life expectancy is very short. Whilst on our ward, the staff organised a christening for him. The parents had written to the Chief Executive and Chief Nurse complimenting all the staff on the ward on the care they had given and enclosed a photograph of the family on their Christening Day, which she showed me. It was truly humbling.
As we carried on through the ward I saw our Quality Fellow who invited us to one of the paediatricians’ Safety Huddles. They have developed a 6 point checklist to improve patient safety which they run through every day. This includes examining the Paediatric Early Warning Scores for each patient; highlighting any planned high risk procedures to be undertaken on the ward and flags any other teams the ward need to communicate with, such as Theatres. This only took 15 minutes and gave me a real sense of the team being on top of every patient.
After lunch I headed up to our Theatres suite. We have 44 theatres, 60% of which run 6 days a week and we support our neighbouring hospital with their trauma lists as well.
Kitted out like an extra in Casualty (or more likely Scrubs) I spent a fascinating afternoon in Theatres, starting out with a tour of the day surgery unit accompanied by the Nurse in Charge (NiC). I think it’s really important to not just have a ‘royal’ visit but to see what it’s really like for the staff on the frontline. As we walked around the unit the NiC was approached from all sides with all sorts of problems and requests for information, and I observed him trying very hard to not just take on all of this but support the staff to think for themselves and try and solve their own problems. Not easy in a busy clinical environment!
He was clearly passionate about the development of his staff and talked me through the new clinical educator role they have introduced to quickly train up staff as they have such as high turnover in Theatres. This has proved to be a great success in the last three months.
I was lucky enough to observe a clinical procedure in one of the theatres for a patient with chronic pain. It was great to see the WHO checklist being used to cross check the procedure even as a day surgery. There was an anaesthetist on standby in case the patient went off, but the patient was coping very well so he had the time to talk me through the details of the procedure in-between reassuring the patient, which made it even more interesting. I had to wear a heavy lead apron as interventional imaging was being used as the procedure was so intricate it needed constant images available. I was absolutely in awe of the precision with which the consultant worked.
It is twelve years since I was last in theatres as an observer and it was incredibly interesting how much things have moved on. I came out of my time at theatres with a much richer appreciation of the pressure that our theatres teams work under, but everyone I met was friendly, welcoming and made time to speak to me.
My whole day was humbling and awe inspiring. I am proud to work in the NHS and think it’s vital for managers to make the time to walk the clinical areas and speak to staff to see what it’s really like for them day to day.
Get out there.
A big thank you to all the staff, patients and parents that made time to speak to me on Friday 31 July 2015, I really appreciated it and I am in awe of the work you do every day.
About the author
Sarah Morgan is the Director of Organisational Development at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust