We touched on the idea of self-care when a group of us (all health care professionals) met at Mettricks Café in Southampton for dinner. I chose to spend my Unexpected Conversations funding at Mettricks as it has a strong ethos to give back to the community, which turned out to be fitting for the path our conversations followed!
We discussed our need to be strong mentally and physically to be able to work with our patients and clients to the best of our abilities.
Gemma, who is a mental health nurse, talked about a cognitive behavioural therapy course she had attended and how the group asked how is your ‘self-care’? Self-care meaning the things you do for yourself to keep happy and healthy. This could be something as simple as talking to a friend on the phone, having a bath, or making a cup of tea (whilst doing nothing else)! A colleague in a previous job called these times ‘golden moments’. My golden moment when I finish work is to sit out in the garden (come rain or shine) and have a cup of tea and read my book.
NHS England’s 5 Year Forward View published in 2014 focuses on empowering people to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, and when we talk about self-care we talk about prevention. Seventy percent of the NHS’s £120 billion budget is spent on conditions that might have been preventable. This means the health care professional’s role is more of an advisory role, where the onus is on the patients to look after their own health.
As an occupational therapist (OT), this method of giving people the tools and strategies to enable change is akin to our ethos. When people feel informed and in control of their choices they are more motivated to achieve the goal they are working towards. The hardest thing is that people have to be willing to make changes themselves in the first place. With the NHS having such a ‘doing to’ culture this is hard to implement.
As I sit and write this I question myself is this really a utopian dream? Sorry, I mean plan?! Something needs to change and it needs to change fast. I wanted the ultimate result of the conversations we had at Mettricks Café to be action. I suggested that everyone come up with SMART Goals: one personal, and one work or community related.
My housemate and OT Helen has chosen her goal to practice what she preaches, and has joined the gym. Her aim is to attend twice a week with another work colleague. She wants to explore how easy it is for older people to access exercise facilities, and will gain an understanding of the trials and tribulations people may face. Helen’s ultimate plan is to promote exercise for older people and create a resource of these services to hand out to people on her ward.
Working collaboratively with mental health care professionals is a long-term aim in my new job role as a community paediatric OT. Working holistically as one cohesive team has always been a massive motivation for action in my OT practice. For my ‘work related goal’ I’ve decided to try and introduce the idea of a multi-disciplinary journal or film club amongst my colleagues. Thinking as always about the environment, I have decided that this will be held in a pub or café, as this will allow people to feel more relaxed about discussing their ideas.
As healthcare professionals, we have an amazing opportunity to facilitate and be drivers for change and work from the bottom up. Little things such as saying ‘hello’ to your admin staff or asking what name a patient likes to be referred as can make the workplace a better environment to be in, and maybe people will be inspired to follow suit. Also I cannot emphasise enough the importance of self-care, be kind to yourself!
I would like to thank Lyndsey, Helen, Emily and Gemma for their contributions and inspiring conversations to help make this blog possible, and Ness for her ‘golden moments’.
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