These last few weeks have seen a gradual but definite shift in all our lives, with the easing of lockdown restrictions and the subsiding of COVID numbers across the board.
The ‘aftermath’ of the first COVID wave has been evidenced by a general uneasiness as we move with trepidation into yet another unknown, and grapple with trying to figure out exactly how we feel.
So it seems a perfect time to take stock and reflect, and perhaps shine a little light and self-care on ourselves and each other.
Katie Williams, registered midwife at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff, has been busy doing exactly this. She has launched an initiative called ‘Care-ona Corner’ and we had to find out more!
Katie, tell us about yourself!
My name is Katie, I have now been a midwife for ten years. Time flies when you are having fun! I trained in Bournemouth University which I loved, however, the calling of the homeland became too strong and I followed my heart to come home to Cardiff (plus England wasn’t quite ready for such a strong Welsh accent).
I applied to work at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) as I really wanted the challenge of working in such a busy and impressive unit and haven’t looked back. The majority of my career so far has been spent on Delivery suite. I have also worked on the Midwifery Led Unit, the Postnatal Ward and the Obstetric Assessment Unit.
My passion is high risk intrapartum care and improving experiences for women and their families, so Delivery Suite suits me perfectly.
What have you been up to and what is ‘Care-ona Corner’?
I created an initiative called ‘Care-Ona Corner’ – a staff incentive program which helps to promote wellbeing and boost staff morale.
The program has been supported by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) ‘Caring For You’ initiative who have generously donated funds for a Fitbit – the prize will go to the winner of the ‘Move More’ (100km) challenge at the end of the month!
What does ‘Care-ona Corner’ mean?
It is a play on words – intending to signify care provided to staff during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The name did cause some ‘discussion’ amongst the team as many interpreted it differently – most commonly ‘Care on a corner’. This has only added to the fun and we have embraced it.
How did this come about?
Working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I really started to see an increase in ‘COVID-weariness’ amongst my colleagues. Wearing PPE constantly is not for the faint hearted and also dealing with understandably anxious women whom sometimes have to attend appointments without their significant other was beginning to weigh heavy on staff.
I wondered what tools there were available to help us through this.
Luckily for us one of our consultant obstetric anaesthetists is Dr Mark Stacey who is renowned for being passionate about staff wellbeing. We had a discussion and he suggested perhaps utilizing his publication ‘The Baker’s Dozen of Mental Toughness’. This is a toolkit which provides resources to improve and strengthen resilience. An example of the points within the Bakers Dozen are ‘to smile more’, ‘to complete a gratitude journal’ and ‘to move more’ – all very achievable goals and proven by research to be highly beneficial.
How does Care-ona Corner work?
I saw how generous business across Cardiff were being, kindly donating amazing gifts to departments within UHW. I knew certain gifts would entice staff to participate and so I set about contacting specific businesses directly. To my absolute delight people were beyond generous.
We had gifts donated such as teeth whitening and a pair of Welsh rugby tickets to name but a few. I attached the prizes to certain points within the ‘Bakers Dozen’ and staff have to participate to win. This has made them practice the point and generally led to a little buzz within the maternity unit. Something fun to focus on and a distraction from the highly stressful environment we are working in currently.
What have been your personal highlights or most memorable moments?
My personal highlights have been just how supportive my colleagues have been throughout this initiative. It has really spurred me on and given me the energy to continue. I was also so grateful and humbled by how unbelievably generous businesses have been such as Laffan Dentists, the Snack Shack and Flower and Flame.
I have been overwhelmed with how much love people have for the NHS. I am so proud of the NHS as a whole and how we have pulled together through this testing time.
Have you noticed a difference in your department/team?
‘Care-ona Corner has proven a great distraction during a testing time and hopefully some of the skills will be utilized so that staff use them regularly within their everyday lives.
How do you see this carrying forward, if at all?
I am bubbling full of ideas. I would quite like to set up a midwifery podcast…watch this space.
Any final words of wisdom?
To anyone thinking of doing something similar to this…. sometimes it’s difficult to set up initiatives such as these as people find them a little ‘woolly’ and are quite vocal about it.
However, if anything this experience has taught me that if you persevere, even the biggest of naysayers will get on board in the end.
Ultimately, we are all working towards the same goal which is to provide great care to women and their families.
Let’s make sure we look after and support each other in the meantime.
Special thanks to the RCM for getting behind the project and for all their support.
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