A Bloom Room for staff wellbeing in a time of COVID-19

Dr Julie-Ann Collins from the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children reflects on the uncertainty and apprehension brought on by changes to working practices through COVID-19. Here she talks about wellbeing initiatives in her hospital, ranging from the calming influence of the Bloom Room to having fun on TikTok!
Julie-Ann in the "Bloom Room"

A lot has changed in a few months during the COVID-19 pandemic and we have found ourselves in new territory. Change, however, can be a time of great opportunity. Amidst uncertainty there is a chance to be creative or learn something new, and it is especially important to be kind to ourselves and each other. Looking after ourselves helps us deliver the best care to our patients. I have always been passionate about the importance of staff wellbeing and especially so in intense work environments.

I acknowledge that the experience of working through the COVID-19 pandemic has been varied and challenging for healthcare professionals in different ways. Whether looking after critically ill patients with COVID-19, being redeployed to assist colleagues treating adult patients, having to adapt to new rotas and working environments including the regular use of PPE or worrying about the patients that should have been presenting to hospital, we should reflect on the impact this has had on our physical and emotional wellbeing.

I appreciate that one size does not fit all when it comes to improving and maintaining our wellbeing, but I will share with you some of my reflections and experiences over the last few months.

I recall at the beginning of lockdown a general sense of apprehension about the coronavirus pandemic due to the many uncertainties about what we were preparing for and fear about the impact it might have on our patients, families and ourselves. Nevertheless, staff felt focussed, determined and energised. There was a real appetite for knowledge - webinars were commonplace and never before were we so well connected internationally, sharing experience and good practice.

The Bloom concept invites and encourages individuals to renew themselves, flourish and be healthy

A bright, peaceful sanctuary for the hard-working ED team

As time passed it proved challenging to maintain staff motivation and readiness to deal with all the changes of the pandemic - and this ignited me to take action. The creation of “The Bloom Room” seemed like the best place to start. We transformed our seminar room into a tropical garden themed, bright, peaceful sanctuary for our hard-working ED team to seek solace when needed. The Bloom concept not only applies to the flowers and plants within but also invites and encourages the individuals who use the room to renew themselves, flourish and be healthy. It is a COVID-free zone with talk of PPE banned.

Be kind | Our Bloom Room appeals to all of our senses. It features baskets of snacks and essential toiletries for staff to help themselves to when needed, and all we ask is that people add something in return to the basket, when they can, as a small act of kindness to sustain it.

Be grateful | Inspirational quotes and COVID-free reading materials are freely available. The room has been decorated with some wonderfully artistic drawings from staff.

Keep learning | A rainbow of hope surrounds our post COVID-19 plans on the wall and a beautiful positive tree. Posters outlining nutrition and sleep self-help tips, phrases in different languages as well as yoga poses to practise also dress the walls. Flowers and plants are dotted throughout and a relaxing lavender scent fills the room while relaxing classical music is piped throughout.  

Be active | The weekly blackboard exercise challenge has unleashed everyone’s inner competitive side while helping us stay healthy. To date we have climbed Mount Everest and had champions in the fields of planking, wall sit, push-ups and hula hooping. It was certainly essential after our immensely popular “Bake Off” featuring delicious vegan veggie rolls, brownies, coffee cake, Terry’s chocolate orange cheesecake and Hummingbird cake to name a few. Our “Cook Off” featuring dishes from “round the world” is shaping up to be another great event.

Connect | Feedback from staff to date about all our ideas has been so positive which has been further encouragement to continue this venture. I don’t think anyone spends their break anywhere else any longer. We have all learned more about ourselves and each other. A dedicated departmental wellbeing Facebook page also helps us to stay better connected as a team and our private TikTok account has been very entertaining. 

Take notice | As some light is now appearing at the end of the tunnel and we enter the recovery phase, I encourage you to be in the moment  and embrace Florence the Flamingo’s advice (The Bloom Room’s mascot): Stay balanced. Stand by your flock. And always be fabulous.

Get a virtual tour of the Bloom Room in this short video!