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Why we should welcome feedback and listen to those who raise concerns in both healthcare and research

Criticism and feedback can feel uncomfortable to both give and receive. It can be an awkward exchange, where both parties may be reluctant to let their guard down, concede to oversights, reveal any flaws and relinquish any feelings of responsibility. It can also be incredibly frustrating on both sides.

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But lets look at both sides of the coin rationally. Firstly, Why would someone offer feedback?

  • They want to make something better
  • They see an opportunity to improve something
  • They want to help you
  • They want something corrected
  • You, or someone else have asked them for feedback
  • They want to offer you their unique outsider/fresh eyes view of something that you may not be privy to.

These are all gifts, learning opportunities and avenues toward creating our best outputs. Here, we theorise that everyone who offers feedback has good intentions, which some may argue is unrealistic and naive. However, I am personally unwilling to lose out on the potentially invaluable gold dust of feedback for the sake of those who wish to meddle in mischief. The vast majority of those who enter both the healthcare and academic professions do so in order to contribute positively.

In order to feel valued and perform to the best of their abilities, healthcare staff must feel heard. This is the same for those in research. As such, whether we agree with the feedback we are given, it must be heard, examined, considered and then either acted upon or rebutted respectfully.

If you are doing your best, feel passionately about what you are trying to achieve and have worked hard to achieve something amazing, it can be hard to hear that there may be cracks in your work, despite all of your well intended efforts. You are also in the job to give your best and contribute positively. But you cannot know everything…so keep listening to those who have the ‘fresh eyes’ to see what you may not.

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Denial only denies you an opportunity to do better.

Lets look outside the box:

What is going on here?

Restaurant owner:

  • Wants her food to be good
  • Believes she has done her best
  • Defensive and protective about her achievements

Customer & Gordon Ramsey:

  • Wants good food
  • Wants mistakes corrected
  • Wants things to be better
  • Wants to be helpful and constructive
  • Has a new ‘Fresh eyes’ perspective from outside the organisation

The negative response to this feedback could mean:

  • The customer probably won’t return to the restaurant
  • The customer will avoid offering any further feedback
  • A missed opportunity to make things better
  • The expert will at some point back away from offering further assistance
  • The restaurant may fail to reach its full potential

FYI – These restaurant owners always achieve great things for their restaurants once they listen and act upon feedback

Reflection: Can we apply these roles to some of the roles active healthcare and research? (Including our own)!

Don’t despair!… If you get everything right, all of the time, you miss new opportunities to learn

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Some of my early academic papers were really very terrible. Some of the work I do now is muddled at first. I make mistakes, everyone does. I am in no way perfect, nor do I alone have all of the skills to change the world. I need help. I welcome help and input from those who can fill in for the skills I do not have and the knowledge I cannot yet see. This is why I welcome feedback and listen to those who raise concerns. In fact I grab every opportunity to do so.

In exchange for this, my work improves, I see new opportunities to thrive, new ideas are generated and collective collaborations make our outputs much stronger. Success.

If I had been steadfast in feeling that because I was so passionate about the work I was doing, nothing could possibly be wrong with it, then I would have missed the chance to create something better. Yes, it used to be frustrating to hear criticism. But this frustration can be turned around.

Once you see that a criticism is not a personal attack, it becomes a welcome guest.

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More recently, I had a paper accepted ‘No revisions required’. I was worried. I wanted feedback, I wanted changes made, I wanted other people to weigh in on my work and check for anything I may have missed. This is because I knew it would be a stronger paper having been ripped apart and then put back together again….made better.

Everything I have ever done has always been made better when others have offered their ‘fresh eyed’ feedback. Here are my top tips for making the most out of feedback.

  • Welcome and invite it
  • Listen to it, consider it and evaluate it
  • Let down your defenses (It is not an attack – people want to help)
  • Feedback on your feedback – Tell them how it was used
  • Actively search for those who can offer a ‘fresh eyed’ perspective on your project
  • Never attack those who offer you valuable feedback (They will avoid doing it again!)
  • Know that it is OK not to be perfect, you cannot do everything all of the time
  • Avoid blinkered approaches like ‘I know what is best’ & ‘Nothing can be wrong because I worked so hard for it not to be’.
  • Offer your own feedback to others – It will not only help them, but it will make you feel good and contribute toward the collective goal!

We all want to be the best we can be. We need to role-model and make things better for everyone. We need to lift each other up with support and praise.

Let go of your defenses and welcome new opportunities for success.

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Until next time, look after yourselves and each other 💙💜💚

 

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Mentorship in healthcare and research: Role modelling for excellence

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Mentoring, coaching, role modelling, training…. leading….Whatever you want to call it, I would be nothing without it. That phrase was once hurled at me as an insult…

YOU WOULD BE NOTHING WITHOUT ‘X’ – Well yes..That is true.

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Workplace cultures in healthcare and research are created and shaped by what we do rather than what we say. Simply put, the way we behave is how we end up living. Although we can all be influenced by what we see, hear and experience …YOU can choose how you will and won’t behave. You can equally decide what behaviour you will and will not accept from others. But who will show us the way we want to go?

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As I remember training to be a midwife, many people said …”‘take the good bits and leave the bad bits’ out of your own practice, as you develop and grow alongside your mentor”. I did this, and yet it took me a long time to define who I wanted to be as a professional. Some mentors were good, and some mentors less so – personal preference perhaps?… Many tried to direct the way in which they wanted me to go, and it took great courage for me to challenge this directive behaviour. However, as my career progressed, I was able to study Leadership in health and social care at Masters degree level. This really helped me to understand the theories behind good and bad mentorship…

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A good mentor:

  • Has confidence in you
  • Trusts you
  • Empowers you
  • Gives constructive feedback
  • Wants you to succeed
  • Supports your new ventures
  • Listens to your new ideas
  • Identifies your strengths and helps you develop them into constructive outputs
  • Identifies your weaknesses and helps you manage them effectively
  • Shares their wisdom
  • Gives you wings to fly
  • Behaves with integrity, professionalism and dignity
  • Inspires you
  • Is kind to you (and others)!
  • Feeds your passions and thirst for new opportunities
  • Invites you into their network of expertise
  • Grows with you as you as a professional

A bad mentor:

  • Is concerned only with their own success
  • Talks about doing things that never happen ‘All talk’
  • Is always negative about everything and everyone
  • Is never around
  • Cannot commit to your development
  • Bullies you
  • Dictates how you must behave
  • Doesn’t pay attention to the way you would like to develop professionally
  • Never admits when they are wrong
  • Refuses to believe that you may know more than them in certain areas
  • Compares you with others (negatively)
  • Never lets you progress
  • Kills your confidence
  • Makes you feel bad about yourself

Once you find your way, it is important to find the courage to decide which behaviours you are willing to accept, and to role model yourself for the benefit of others. These are important choices to make, as they will contribute to the cultures in which you and your colleagues will be working. Ask yourself the following:

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  • What do you need in order to be productive?
  • What do you need from others in order to thrive professionally?
  • How do you want to behave?
  • What are you willing to accept?

The answers to these questions must be acted upon. Have the courage to communicate these needs…Others will want you to succeed, they will appreciate this information…

…If not…..are you willing to accept that?

My final tip for ultimate success is to find your flock. Gravitate towards those who inspire you… hang around with those who allow you to fly…. learn from those who lift others up and share your thoughts with those who seek out change.

I would be nothing without my ‘Flock’…my wonderful mentors and my inspiring colleagues.

Each and every one of us ‘mentor’ a growing professional every day (whether we realise it or not)! Therefore each and every one of us needs to decide how we want to behave every day..We all create the workplace cultures, leaders and workforce of the future. Lets create something wonderful…

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Thank you to all of you wonderful mentors out there….

Until next time, look after yourselves, and each other 💙💜💚

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Why Midwifery and Nursing Students Should Publish their Work and How

Both midwifery and nursing students do wonderful work. Here, I am referring to ‘the student’ as any nurse or midwife who is currently enrolled in a postgraduate course, as well as those aspiring to be and working towards becoming nurses and/or midwives.

Students have a unique perspective on things, which those in academia or teaching may not be privy to. As such, any contribution from the student groups is a valuable one.

I generally hold the belief that if you are doing something worthwhile, you should share it. Throughout your student journey, you are learning things which generally, other people know about. However, when you are doing your literature review/thesis or dissertation, you are (or should be) contributing to new knowledge.

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Students often say to me “I have never published before, and I am ‘only’ a student”…. Never think that your contributions hold no value. No doubt they will be valuable to the whole midwifery community, because your insights invariably are.

Also….we need more midwives and nurses to join the academic community!

Nobody can know everything, and nobody can conduct all of the literature reviews that need to be done (and these are always of great value to the nursing and midwifery communities as a whole)! As such, your new and original contributions are highly valuable. You also worked really hard on them!

So…Why not share your work through publication?…How will your new knowledge ever be widely shared among those looking to discover new knowledge and learn if you don’t?

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So how can I publish my work?

Firstly, what do academic journals publish?

  • Opinion pieces
  • Literature reviews
  • Summary papers
  • Original research projects

These are the most common things that journals publish, and also the most likely things you will be working on. So think about how your work stands out, how is it original? If it is similar to another paper…are you building on what has previously been found? Try to look on Google Scholar initially to see what has already been published in your area of interest.

You should be referencing widely as a student (Not Heat Magazine, but high quality papers!)…Look at your reference lists – what have these authors published? in which journals? This activity may guide you to the kind of thing you might want to publish and where.

COLLABORATE – Ask one of your tutors or another academic midwife in a similar field to co-author a paper with you. This may mean that you can gain some valuable mentorship from another nurse/midwife, and also strengthen your paper with new ideas and a ‘fresh eyes’ approach. They may also have published papers before, and so can guide you in the right direction.

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Where should I publish my work?

As you may be fairly early on in your quest to journey down the publishing path… you may want to begin with some widely read and frequently published journals such as:

  • The British Journal of Midwifery
  • The Nursing Times
  • Midirs
  • The British Journal of Nursing
  • The practicing midwife
  • The Nursing Standard

However, you may also want to aim for more international journals, and publish elsewhere. This website is very good at helping you to find the right journal for your paper.

The journal Impact Factor is the average number of times articles from the journal published in the past two years have been cited in the JCR year. The Impact Factor is calculated by dividing the number of citations in the JCR year by the total number of articles published in the two previous years.

Journal Rank (SJR indicator) is a measure of scientific influence of scholarly journals that accounts for both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance or prestige of the journals where such citations come from.

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Once you find the journal you would like to publish in…read their own explanation of what they want to publish – they will often say what they are looking for, or have a call for a specific research topic they have coming up. This may mean that you could contribute towards a special journal issue on a shared topic/theme.

Check out what they have published over the last few months… does it resemble the kind of paper you are trying to publish? Could you model your own paper to emulate the kind of things that are already being published..makes sense right?

Then…. When we have read our paper many times over with ‘fresh eyes’, we make our final edits in partnership with our co-authors….and submit!..

But what’s the process for doing this?

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In my experience, the journey from submission to publication usually takes around 3-4 months (Make sure to submit any revisions ASAP)!

I’m Published….what now?

Let the world know! – Share share share! This was the whole reason you published your work… so that others could read and learn about what you found. Your paper is important!…People will want to read it. Blog about it, share it via social media and email it to your professional colleagues. See my advice on using social media here.

You are looking for impact. Once you are published, you may want to track your Altmetrics score. Remember to add the paper to Linkedin, Research gate and academia.edu where people can find your work more easily…

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The publishing journey is certainly an emotional and professional roller coaster where rejections can wound and successes can be truly empowering! Try to enjoy the peer review process as a positive thing. Any criticism and reflection will only make your paper better in the long run – don’t despair…it is rare to get papers accepted for publication without any revisions at all!

 It will all be worth it in the end I promise!…and if its not worth it…then its not the end..Good Luck!

Until next time…Look after yourselves, and each other! 💛💙💜💚

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The #DNAofCare …Listening to #NHS staff Stories #Exp4ALL

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This excerpt from Patient Voices explains  what this project is about…”Just as care in the NHS is free at the point of need, NHS staff carry within them a vast reservoir of expertise and experience that is free at the point of telling: their unspoken, unheard stories of care and caring.

The intertwined relationship between patient care and staff well-being has been likened to the double helix. And so the stories we tell each other are like the DNA of care, transmitting information and shaping cultures, offering learning opportunities and, sometimes, healing.

There is often a cost to gathering these stories, but… as the wonderful Dr. Karen Deeny (Head of NHS staff Experience from NHS England) explains…

In the first half of 2016, NHS England funded Patient Voices workshops for staff to create their own digital stories about working in healthcare. The intention is that the stories will be used to help other people understand the reality of working in healthcare so we may all learn from experiences, both good and bad; sharing stories in this way helps contribute to healthcare that is safer, more dignified, more humane and more compassionate for everyone.”

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The event in London on the 2nd November 2016 was a showcase and celebration of these stories, in a bid to make real change and create new knowledge and understanding within the healthcare services. I really enjoyed the day, made some wonderful reflections and saw some real transformations. I was honored to be there and hear these private, powerful and passionate NHS staff stories shape the DNA of the care that we all give.

We sat in a wonderfully intimate London Cinema patiently waiting to hear the stories and insights from NHS staff in relation to a multitude of clinical and very personal events. The storytellers were able to introduce their stories personally, having created them over a period of 3 days, where they had clearly invested their heart and souls in communicating the greatest joys and pains of their work and their lives as they experienced them.
Thank you for sharing.
All of the staff stories can be accessed here… But for me, the most powerful story was Claudia’s story…’Pieces’..
Claudia has worked and lived in different countries, and different parts of one country. Medicine, healthcare, cannot save everyone and when death, severe illness or harm happen unexpectedly ,a serious untoward incident (SUI) has to be reported. This is one story of one incident and one team in a hospital somewhere.
This story really shows how an entire team of staff can be directly affected by a patient event. This is really poignant when we look at a case from the ‘back door’… the ‘locked door’ that most of us rarely think of or see. When a patient dies….we are patient and family focused. It perhaps feels selfish or wrong to think of the pain, fear and blame that staff may simultaneously be feeling….Feelings of ‘What if’.
Lessons are learnt and improvements are made. But the staff may leave, react poorly or feel unable to go on. They will also be shaken to the very core….their professionalism and competency tested to the limits of idealized ‘coping’. Nobody can take ‘The magic resilience pill’ for this.
As a midwife, I could personally relate to the story graciously shared by Rachel Scanlan (@rgscanlan) – There are no words to really add to this deeply emotive story. To me it was actually an experience to be seen and reflected upon in private silence. The respect and dignity of the events shared are highly personal, and yet I know that many midwives will be able to relate to these same thoughts, feelings and experiences. The tenderness described between those involved is truly heartwarming. I can only wish for greater targeted support for those midwives who share these emotionally laborious life experiences in partnership with colleagues and the families they care for. Thank you for sharing this. I will certainly be sharing this story in order to drive better outcomes for maternity services and the midwifery profession as a whole.
It was poignant that we listened to emotional NHS staff stories on . There were many strong messages I took from the day.

Dr. on the importance of a positive Staff experience. “It’s not an ‘indulgence’…it drives better outcomes!”

 

Two final thoughts or observations for me were as follows. It was seemingly the brightest and most passionate NHS staff who had been worn down and disenchanted by their NHS workplaces, having been left unheard and unsupported. These bright sparks were then moving into academia where their ideas and talents can be nurtured and turned into really meaningful change. In essence, we are loosing the brightest talent from front line services, as they are told to ‘keep their heads down and get on with the job’. This experience resonates with me personally as I too.

Ultimately it is this message that I took from the day…

It is also this message that I intend to take forward in my own collaborative work projects. The collaborations and inspired connections that I made at this event makes me ever more hopeful that we will all come together with this shared vision and drive to make things better.

The way we intend to make things better is by focusing on the relationship between the NHS patient experience and the NHS staff experience….the .

As you can imagine, the Twitter activity on this event was fairly inspiring -> Check out  for more reflections from this event…