By Darashna Moodley, Specialist Pharmacist: Medication Safety at King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
COVID-19 has been such a challenging period for the wellbeing of us all and the past year has presented many professional and personal dilemmas. As a Pharmacy Site Lead, based at the smaller of two sites of a large teaching NHS Trust in the Midlands, I have been privileged enough to lead a relatively small but dynamic team throughout the pandemic, delivering expert care to patients.
The impact of working during COVID-19 has been magnified for a smaller team and we’ve all had to dig deep to shore up our service. It quickly became apparent that we all harboured a myriad of COVID experiences that we inevitably brought to work. I wanted to create an opportunity for the team to freely express their own perspectives in a safe environment, so I decided to use our daily team huddles to discuss the challenges we each faced. The team felt supported as colleagues voiced concerns and anxieties and we shared cautious optimism, celebrating the successes within our practice. My personal highlight was observing my team share food resources and toiletries after falling victim to the panic-buying frenzy at the start of the pandemic.
Ensuring the team is well supported for their wellbeing is the one of most important aspects of my work, and the Trust’s wellbeing team provides bulletins signposting staff to resources to help them with their mental health. Sadly, we lost a respected and well-loved nurse during the pandemic and the loss significantly impacted my team’s mental wellbeing.
To support my staff, I arranged short sessions with the Trust’s psychologist and offered mindfulness sessions to ensure that people were supported and could talk about the experience. These sessions have been highly valuable for my colleagues and while accessing these sessions can be difficult due to timings and workload constraints, knowing that there is someone who they can confidentially talk to is incredibly reassuring.
Communal wellbeing sessions among colleagues have been arranged in the hope of reducing common concerns, but it’s important to stress that participation is optional, and no one is obliged to attend if they feel uncomfortable. Understandably, there have been reservations among individuals about sharing experiences regarding their wellbeing with their colleagues, but our first session was attended by all staff from both Lloyds and the inpatient teams.
The psychologist was exceptional, engaging with the team and chatting about different experiences. These sessions culminate with a mindfulness exercise and despite not all individuals being able to completely relax at first, the overall feedback was positive, with individuals stating their appreciation and acknowledging the sessions as beneficial. The feedback ranged from “Gosh, that was good!” to “I needed that time-out!”.
There are many examples of team-building exercises that have helped my team and our wellbeing during the pandemic. I’m incredibly proud and grateful to have such a supportive team around me and it’s important we look after each other during these difficult times. Adversity challenges teams in different ways but it magnifies the value of teamwork and drawing strength from colleagues. Arranging mindfulness sessions has allowed us to appreciate each other and acknowledge the collective commitment to improving the wellbeing of those around us.