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  • Writer's pictureLilian Chiwera

Nightingale Academy 2020 - a conference with a difference

I have written about the importance of love, kindness, empathy and compassion in healthcare in my previous two blogs and my stance on these values will forever remain unchanged. I don’t have any excuse not to continue writing about the importance of these values in our society at large, healthcare settings included. Florence Nightingale herself rightly said ‘I attribute my success to this:—I never gave or took an excuse.’ Her words inspire me to continue championing these important attributes hoping that one day we can all live in a world that is filled with love and kindness.

An inspirational start

I attended the Nightingale Academy conference #NAconf2020 which was organised by fantastic nurse leaders, Fiona Hibberts & Roisin Fitzsimons; who are co-directors of the Nightingale Academy. This was probably one of the best online conferences I’ve attended this year. Fiona and Roisin welcomed us to the conference full of energy and enthusiasm as alluded to by our new Chief Nurse Avey Bhatia. This was followed by an opening address from Avey who passionately shared her ‘glittering’ career journey. Avey reiterated on the importance of always maintaining positivity by continually reminding oneself that ‘you’re good enough’, something I was taught well during my leadership development programme with the Florence Nightingale Foundation. Avey worked incredibly hard to get to where she is today, giving us all hope that hard work does indeed pay off.

Kindness & inclusiveness

Up next was the inspirational Dr Calvin Morley reminding us that stigma is demoralising, can make or break people’s careers and indeed livelihoods; therefore we should be doing everything we can to promote inclusivity. Just like we do for our patients, I always challenge myself to be empathetic or put myself in someone else’s shoes & try and think how it must feel to be them. This helps me to always be kind and considerate in all situations & to be mindful of how I treat those who don’t look like me or who don’t like the same things that I do. This session was nicely followed by Noni Nyathi & Marcelle Tauber-Gilmorefrom Imperial NHS Foundation Trust who shared their innovative initiativesfor supporting staff from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups. An idea that started as a corridor discussion ended up with the launch of innovative headwear to support BAME staff wear PPE safely and comfortably during the COVID-19 pandemic. What a phenomenal story of care and compassion for colleagues this was.

Career conversations

Following these sessions, came the one that I was eagerly looking forward to. It was all about career conversations with our Deputy Chief Nurse Toni Lynch. I enjoyed listening to people’s career journeys and as Roisin rightly pointed out in her tweet ‘One thing coming up frequently from our speakers is the importance of #mentoring and having a supportive and compassionate leader …’ Certainly, I have had so many people help me along my career journey, cheering me on to reach for greater heights. I’ll forever be grateful to the many countless individuals who made me feel very welcome and supported. Most of the individuals on the panel alluded to the fact that every career journey has its ups and downs and certainly people should not be disheartened when they encounter challenges. I always endeavour to take challenges as presenting opportunities to develop my reliance and of course I want to focus more on the positives. Well, I even managed to forget mentioning surgical site infection surveillance and #SSIPrevention for the first time when talking about my career. On reflection, I realised the joy that overwhelmed me when I started mentioning all the people who inspired me, encouraged me and shaped my career to where it is today. Their love, kindness, warmth brightened even those days I turned up to work not feeling great. Yes, for one to make a successful career, there’s always a team of individuals backing them which again highlights the importance of love, kindness, compassion and empathy in the workplace.

Quality Improvement, Human Factors & Leadership

I chose to attend 3 bitesize workshops on Quality Improvement (QI) & Patient Safety, how human factors contribute to teaching and Aspiring to be a Head of Nursing for my afternoon sessions. These sessions perfectly complemented each other and are important in surgical site infection surveillance and prevention where surgical pathways have to be thoroughly evaluated continuously to identify potential improvement points. Certainly when patients develop any infection, ideally an investigation must be undertaken to identify potential avoidable causes that can be rectified. As Megan Pontin rightly pointed out during the #NAconf2020 conference, our #QualityImprovement project can come out of those everyday experiences, near misses, etc. therefore we have to be innovative when patient safety improvement opportunities present to us. The take away message from the QI session was that we must embed patient safety and continuous quality improvement in our organisational cultures and ‘make improvement conversations to be part of everyday business as usual.’ Thank you Megan & Annette Fogarty for delivering such an inspiring session.

To err is human but...

To err is human is a common term you often hear and that’s why human factors and ergonomics awareness should be integral to and must be fully embedded in organisational operational frameworks. ‘1. Thoughtful, multifaceted responses by individuals, teams, and organizations; and 2. a systems approach to the design of processes, tasks, training, and conditions of work in order to modify the conditions that contribute to errors; are required to prevent errors and improve safety. This holistic approach is what all healthcare organisations need. In #SSIPrevention for example, the whole surgical journey / associated processes and procedures must be carefully evaluated using a multidisciplinary team approach I wrote about in my previous blog. With this in mind, I approached the workshop on human factors with huge enthusiasm. I was fascinated to learn that this session was focused mainly on human factors in the current online meetings / assessments / teaching climate. Stephen Cutler & colleagues discussions were very thought provoking – I had never carefully considered what it felt like for a presenter or meeting coordinator when everyone had their cameras off or cameras were on but accompanied by a negative body language. So yes, we may not be having face to face meetings anymore due to COVID-19, but it is important for people to be mindful of the power of body language and consider leaving their cameras on and to smile often during virtual meetings. This alone can be a morale booster for those who may be struggling.

They made it so can you!

The last afternoon workshop was enthralling. Listening to nurse directors who fulfilled their dreams was super inspirational. Fiona Hammer and Laura Reiff-Zall informed us that every career journey has it's own challenges but we must keep navigating those challenges until we achieve our career aspirations. They encouraged us to map out what's right for us and keep working hard until we make it. Could I be a director one day? is a question I asked myself that day. Some colleagues on twitter thought I could when I posed the question and cheered me on to go for it. So here’s a challenge to me – if I do become a director one day, will I always have a kind and compassionate leadership approach even when under immense pressure? Its a no-brainer for me, of course I will always endeavour to be kind, compassionate, loving and empathetic. I cannot compromise on these attributes, ever!

Work hard & play harder

Lastly, but not least, conference organisers ensured we all had so much fun throughout the day. In all honesty, I have never been a fun of magic tricks and yet Alan Hudson left me rolling on the floor with laughter. Yes we do need a good laugh every now and then, more so in these difficult times. I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed that much! There was time for relaxing and meditation too with a yoga session which was very welcome after a busy morning. Ainsley Harriott did a ‘food’ poem for nurses and Gordon Ramsay said some beautiful words about the roles of healthcare professionals, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. Gordon even promised to cook for staff at next years’ conference – wow what can I say? I am excited and so look forward to it. Wow, what can I say, just what we needed to lift our spirits during this pandemic.

 Thank you so much Fiona Hibberts & Roisin Fitzsimons for a fantastic and super inspiring conference. This conference left me on another level and can’t wait for the one next year.

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