Wellbeing in paediatrics - by choice and not by chance

Paediatricians Dr Jatinder Khipal, Dr Darshika Gonapoladeniyage and Dr Jyothi Srinivas tell us about their wellbeing week at Milton Keynes, University Hospital which allowed staff to pause, reflect and get involved in activities to focus on their health.
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Health is about more than what you are eating. It is what you are thinking, saying, and believing. The last two years have made a great difference in how we interact with our colleagues due to the pandemic. In our paediatric department, we noted that many activities where staff get together for learning, eating or just to catch up over coffee, had paused during the pandemic. While the virtual meetings have their advantages, many of us felt that it was time to try something different to bring staff together to focus on staff health. 

We discussed planning a week of ‘Wellbeing in Paediatrics’ and wished to include medical and nursing staff along with allied health professionals. The aim was to have a dedicated time for all staff to pause, reflect and have short activities that all could participate in. We agreed that a healthy breakfast would be a brilliant start for the day, and this was approved by our general manager Ms Katy Philpott. We organised small prizes for the paediatric staff that engaged throughout the week.

The wellbeing week comprised of:

Monkey Monday: Breakfast with fun games/Insane Laughter
Tau Tuesday: Breakfast with yoga and meditation
Hungry Wednesday: Breakfast and bring a dish to share
Tau Thursday: Breakfast with yoga and meditation
Final Friday: Breakfast, morning walk and feedback

The wellbeing week poster included details of timings (08:00 - 09:00) along with activities, and was distributed to all staff by email and mentioned in departmental meetings. The mornings started with a healthy breakfast and an activity. These activities were scheduled before the morning handover. Consultants, junior doctors, nurses, AHPs and administrative team members attended these sessions.

Staff initially were unsure and came in with their own breakfast to observe the session. Very soon they realised that it was a welcoming atmosphere with the seminar room having flowers, candles, and free food. It helps that all staff rooms in our hospital are supplied with free tea, coffee, and milk. Staff were encouraged to interact with each other and acknowledge the positive things in the department. We agreed that the small gestures of encouragement by colleagues during difficult shift is much appreciated.

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On the first day, we held games outside the department as the weather was sunny. We stood in a circle and used a ball to throw around. Each one had to take turns sharing what brings them joy, things they look forward to at work and a personal trivia. There were some curious looks by the hospital staff walking from the car park when we were all standing in a circle, playing with a ball and laughing.

On two mornings, we held ‘yoga and breathing exercises’ along with deep meditation. The room was lit by candles and had low light so that staff could concentrate on their thoughts, breathing and to really notice their surroundings. One staff commented that they had never noticed that the clock in the seminar room was that loud. Staff mentioned that they felt calmer after these sessions and wondered if this was something we could do every week. 

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On the final day, we created a space in our schedule for a morning walk. We walked for half hour in the green areas of our hospital before heading to breakfast. We realised that we were lucky to have such green spaces for walking so close to our hospital. We made plans to have regular walks during our lunch breaks in the future. 

The week ended with lots of positivity and enthusiasm, and with a promise to develop a positive outlook towards life and maintaining a vibrant wellbeing. Doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and administrative team attended most of the sessions in the week. As many staff usually arrived a few minutes early to work, they felt that it was better to connect with colleagues over coffee or breakfast than to turn on their computers starting work.

Some feedback comments:

  • This week has shown me that it only takes few minutes to start the day on a positive note.
  • Why don’t we do this every week?
  • I feel much more relaxed after the yoga session as my mornings are usually stressful getting kids ready and then driving to work.
  • Taking a few minutes to say hello to colleagues and having coffee together made me appreciate my colleagues more.
  • I have decided to walk for 30 mins every day either in the morning or at lunchtime around the hospital in the future.