Health and Social Care settings are collaborative environments where everyone plays an important part towards patient care. 

Below you can find information on areas that can enhance communication and effective relationships within Health and Social Care teams. The Keeping Well service are also available for consultation to support teams, contact us to find out more.

We would encourage that, across an organisation, teams actively take time to pause and check in with themselves and each other.

This can help to create a culture where people feel listened to, connected and supported. Prerana Issar, Chief NHS People Officer has reported that team check-ins will be key for staff recovering from the effects of the pandemic. Read more about this here. 

There are a variety of ways in which teams can check-in with each other, including both formal and informal check-ins:   

Formal check-ins

These can be incorporated into team meetings, supervision sessions, peer support groups and reflective spaces.

Informal check-ins

These types of check-ins are likely to occur more frequently and spontaneously, for example, during lunch and tea breaks or anytime colleagues are in conversation and ask each other how they are doing.  

Buddying schemes

Can encourage informal check-ins as they place staff in a better position to be able to notice if their ‘buddy’ is struggling with something and may need support. For more information on buddying schemes, click here.

 

Our NHS people have suggested that daily check-ins during team meetings can help to:   

  • Provide an up-to-date picture of how people are managing 
  • Give teams permission to prioritise their own mental health and to recognise that this is important
  • Create a shared responsibility across the team to keep an eye on each other and to be aware of how others are managing

 

Tip: To best support your colleagues during check-ins, is important to consider things such as team size, location (e.g., in person or video call), hierarchies and cultural appropriateness.   

Case study

The Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust have implemented a ‘Just ask’ campaign where staff have been encouraged to take a moment daily to check in with themselves to see how they are feeling and to carry out acts of self-kindness e.g., eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising and planning to do something that they enjoy. 


Resources:  

  • The Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust have created a toolkit which includes advice on how to incorporate check-ins into team meetings and examples of check-in exercises.
  • ‘GoVox Wellbeing’ has been designed in collaboration with King’s College London and allows teams working remotely to regularly check-in through a short and simple questionnaire.

Reflective practice, Schwartz Rounds, Balint Groups and Compassion Circles are all forms of reflective spaces that can be used to help teams connect, improve practice and increase self-awareness by engaging in conversations about their own and others’ experiences. 

The need for team processing and reflective spaces, as a way of supporting staff wellbeing, has been highlighted in the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee report.

Reflective practice

Reflective practice can be defined as: "a process of learning through and from experiences towards gaining new insights of self-and/or practice.”

Finlay-(2008) open.ac.uk

The process can be carried out both individually or as part of a team (e.g., during one-to-one or group supervision sessions), with key features including:  

  • Being conscious of your own beliefs, values, qualities, strengths and limitations 
  • Viewing things from a different perspective  
  • Making improvements to practice  
  • Continuously using the process to learn more about yourself and the way in which you work 

Models of reflection: There are a number of models which can be used to help guide reflection - NHS Scotland have created the following templates for two which are commonly used:  

Values based reflective practice (VBRR): NHS Scotland have developed this model to specifically help staff deliver the care that they came to the service to provide. It does this by promoting inter-disciplinary group reflection - Find out here.

Schwartz Rounds 

Schwartz Rounds are a form of reflective practice, in which emotional and social aspects of working in healthcare are discussed regularly with all staff, both clinical and non-clinical.  

Rounds usually occur once a month and last for an hour. A panel comprised of three staff share their experiences for the first 15-20 minutes and the remainder of the hour is spent having an open discussion (led by trained facilitators).  

The purpose of Rounds is not to solve problems, but rather to provide a supportive environment which enables staff to understand the challenges and rewards that come with working in healthcare.  

The Point of Care Foundation: is an independent charity which is licensed to provide training and support for organizations implementing Schwartz Rounds in the UK and Ireland. Their Impact Report 2020 stated that the Rounds have helped participants:

  • Gain insight into how others think and feel in caring for patients   
  • Feel more informed and aware of the importance of care and compassion in caring for patients 
  • Work better with their colleagues   
Balint Groups 

They follow a similar format to Rounds in terms of their reflective nature and focus on emotional impact, but they are specifically for clinical staff who work therapeutically with patients/clients. Visit The Balint Society website.

Compassion Circles 

Compassion Circles aim to create a safe and soothing space for conversations about core values, care for self and compassion for others. They can help to break down hierarchies within teams, increase psychological resilience/wellbeing and build a caring environment in the workplace. 

  • Compassion Practices for all – This webpage offers a variety of free guides for practices, including the original 60-minute compassion circle developed by Andy Bradley and colleagues. They also offer shorter (20 and 10 minute practices) for those who are pressed for time.
  • 5-minute ‘Me Space’ and 10-minute ‘Pause Space’ – NHS England have created a series of compassion circle guides for individuals and teams to use.

 

At home it is important you aim to wake up, eat and go to sleep at the same time you normally would. What rhythms can you maintain with your team at work? Can you commit to regular break times? Do you have a morning briefing?

Have a go at the going home checklist:

Going_home_checklist.jpg

 

Away days are a vital team building event in the company calendar. Team building is an essential part of the business. The purpose of a team away day is to get staff working together, motivated and working to their potential.  

The impact of team away days are: 

  • To provide an opportunity to empower and motivate staff to plan, implement and evaluate changes in practice. This improves care for all. 
  • To create an environment of respect, this will occur when staff are working together on problem-solving tasks and team games. Respect is gained between employees because they can see that their colleagues are there to help them and they can also identify skills and qualities that each other have. 
  • To improve morale, team building activities can help break down hurdles between employees. This will create and retain a good atmosphere in the office. 
  • To create better communication, this can be achieved by putting people in a fun and relaxing environment outside the workplace.  This will encourage staff to relax, be themselves and open up to others. 

Face-to-face team away days are vital in building team confidence and trust, creating a tight knit team. They can include activities such as escape room, waterpark day, adventure walk and wall climbing. 

Virtual team building has the power to make remote teams feel just as close. Virtual team away days can include activities such as virtual ice breakers, remote scavenger hunt, offline book club. 

 

Resources and tips:

 

Mindfulness is a way of slowing down and becoming aware of the present moment, it can help with managing stress, anxiety and difficult thoughts.

Peter Helmer.jpgPeter Helmer, an experienced NHS mindfulness practitioner is offering free weekly sessions for NHS staff (Monday at 10am, Monday 6pm and Friday at 3pm) hosted at present on Zoom. The hour long sessions will consist of guided practices of mindfulness relaxation, Q&A, and a chance to check in with the group.

Peter is available to provide mindfulness practice for teams including away days, and one to one sessions. Get in touch with Peter at peter.helmer@nhs.net for more information.

Staff support networks provide staff with space to come together and share their experiences. They can also help to address problems faced by staff from under-represented groups. Staff networks also provide an avenue for employees’ voices and aim to create a fairer and more equitable environment for staff.  

CIPD published a guide on establishing staff networks, some key recommendations included: 

  • Ensure networks have long term objectives. 
  • Meetings should be regular (anything from weekly to monthly) and clearly structured to help to meet the networks broader aims.  
  • Meetings should be opportunities for both learning and tangible change.  
  • It is essential to secure buy-in from senior leaders for networks to function effectively.  
  • Consider appointing a network chair or representative who can act as a first point of contact.  
  • The discussions of employees personal experiences can evoke strong emotions in staff. Ensure that staff feel comfortable to raise sensitive issues and that facilitators have the training and skills to appropriately manage these discussions.  
  • Consider setting up an umbrella organisation to integrate networks and help them work together.  

Resources:

You can find more information on different types of staff networks within NHS England here:

Each organisation may have information on support networks for staff within the area. You may be able to find more information about this on your organisations intranet.