How are you? This is a simple question we used to ask as an ice-breaker or when we bumped into people as we went about our daily business. I don’t think we really thought about the answer we would receive. But now, during these unusual times, we really do want to know how our family, friends and colleagues are coping. It is important for us to understand how others are feeling.
Mental Health Awareness Week (18 - 24 May) provides us all with a chance to focus on our own mental health. This year's theme is kindness in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which is having a big impact on people's mental health. At ELHT we are continually working on how we can better support our staff, patients and loved ones through the current situation.
Contact with their loved ones is very important for our patients while they are in hospital. It helps to combat the feelings of isolation and keeps families in touch while apart. Our Spiritual Care Team, Family Liaison Team and staff on all our wards now have access to iPads to facilitate ‘virtual visits’. While this no way compensates for physical face to face conversations and connections, it is fabulous to see the faces of our patients light up when they take part in Zoom calls.
It is great news that a further ‘Oasis’ has been created in the Learning Centre on the Burnley General Teaching Hospital site. Four rooms have now been given a makeover to provide a quiet, safe space for people to spend time during their breaks to relax and recuperate before returning to their busy shifts. Two of the rooms are situated in the spiritual centres on the Blackburn and Burnley sites which allow individuals the opportunity to speak to someone, if they need to, about the challenges they are currently facing. We are very fortunate that, through our charity, ELHT&Me, the rooms have been resourced and are regularly replenished with drinks and treats from generous donations.
The additional stresses and strains on wards and in clinical areas have been well documented. But there is a similarly pressured group of staff who, due to the appearance of COVID have had to adapt and change their ways of working. These are our ‘office’ staff who used to work in the hospitals or surrounding buildings providing vital support to all areas of the Trust. Now this cohort of people find themselves at home – an unfamiliar working environment. I understand that for many of you this time at home has seen your workloads increase. Unlike when you used to be on site, and the day is punctured by walking between meetings, corridor conversations, commuting and lunch breaks; working at home can make the days seem endless and constant.
The division between work and home is for some becoming increasingly blurred. The ‘zooming’ and ‘teaming’ to keep in touch with colleagues and to make sure projects and programmes of work continuing can also be mentally exhausting. My message to you is no matter what your circumstances are – please take breaks and set a start and finish time every day.
It is easy to become overly focused on the task at hand at the expense of our mental and physical wellbeing. If you have time, please look in the dedicated Wellbeing folder on SharePoint. In there you will find a whole host of guidance and information for self-care, talking therapies and apps available for everyone to tap into, no matter where you work or what you do.
How well you are doing mentally and physical is incredibly important to me, your loved ones and more specifically you! Please look after and be kind to yourselves and those around you. Burning out is not what we want.
As we go into the Bank Holiday weekend I hope you are able to enjoy some time relaxing with your family, safely.