Back in January 2019, we started a regular team newsletter. Initially this was aimed at only the critical care unit (CCU) team; however, very quickly it developed into an all trust audience.
In this post I discuss the multiple benefits the newsletter has offered as well as the challenges I came across. I want to share my experience on developing the newsletter to encourage other teams to consider writing a regular newsletter if they don’t already have one. This followed on from several outreach teams contacting me personally for assistance in writing their own newsletters.
Our Critical Care Outreach Team (CCOT) work regular shifts within the CCU and our new high dependency unit (HDU). I believe we are not alone, but at times there is an element of divide across the teams and we wanted to limit the ‘them and us’ culture. Even when we are not working within the units, we need effective teamwork to maintain best practice and, ultimately, patient’s safety. Unlike some trusts, our outreach, CCU and HDU are all managed as one big team.
With this in mind, we brainstormed ideas for the reasons behind this ‘divide' and decided a regular newsletter might help us.
The initial benefits would be:
- To keep CCU/HDU staff up to date with our current projects - this was a problem identified during recruitment into the outreach team as CCU staff suggested that they had limited opportunity to become involved in the work of the outreach team. Having the CCU staff become more involved and aware of the ‘extra’ work we do has helped to improve our working relationships; various nurses are now more involved with some of our projects, and others are looking to help with the view of progressing into a future outreach role.
- To explain our role as it not always widely understood by some colleagues on CCU.
- To offer our support to any individual wanting to work on a QI, but was not sure how to proceed.
- To highlight our achievements and hard work and to introduce staff to some of our ‘behind the scenes’ work.
- To involve all staff - we regularly asked staff for suggested content that they would find most useful.
The success of the newsletter quickly led us to adapt it to all hospital staff of any discipline or grade:
- The above benefits were similar, but now pertinent to a larger audience, including healthcare assistants, students, physios, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, doctors and management.
- Some of our team are relatively new and it is a good tool to introduce them, using photographs to help improve our visibility and approachability within the hospital.
- We wanted an ‘educational hot topic’ to be a regular feature to help maintain high quality care and standards amongst staff. We asked readers what topics they wanted to engage with. We now have a number of ‘guest writers’ for this section, from various specialties, to help share their knowledge and expertise. It is encouraging to hear how healthcare assistants, students and associate practitioners have found our newsletter content so educational and helped them to provide better care to the patients (and feel more engaged with the care they are providing).
- Every time a new edition of the newsletter is sent out, I have received personal feedback of how useful and interesting it has been. Staff have often personally thanked me on the wards and in the corridor. There is a lot of effort and time that goes into these newsletters, but I feel it is definitely worthwhile. I am a great believer in valuing staff and this has really helped me to keep going, despite the difficulties encountered.
- The newsletter is now jointly written with our Hospital Out of Hours (HOOH) team. Although we are two separate teams, our lead, Rhona, is shared. We all work very closely, supporting each other and preach many of the same messaged, so this just made sense.
Challenges and lessons learnt:
- Team engagement – not all team members wish to be involved in the newsletter and feel there is little extra time to engage with this extra workload.
- The time spent writing and editing is significant and cannot be done within my working hours, so much of this work has been in my own unpaid time.
- I have to rely on some sections being written by other professionals. It is difficult to quickly replace sections if deadlines are missed or not already within a requested word limit.
- I initially edited the newsletter in Word, but found formatting was very difficult. I discovered Publisher and taught myself to use this. I am sure I can learn much more, but have so far found this much easier to work with.
- We wanted to send to ‘All email users’ within the hospital, but were told this was not possible. Instead, I use various groups of staff set up on our work email system.
- My first Ward newsletter was only sent out to CCU staff and Ward Managers. This was not always shared with other staff; inboxes were frequently full and therefore emails could not be received; and this method missed vital teams such as physiotherapists, speech and language, doctors, students.
- Following my distribution issues, I have since compiled a ‘mailing list’ which I add to regularly (this includes professionals in other trusts who enjoy our newsletter too). The hospital librarian team and individual keen students have personally asked to be added to this list which is encouraging.
Perhaps we could all share our newsletters and stories within our trusts and on the hub and support each other in this patient safety initiative. I’d love to hear from others on ideas for newsletters and how they have overcome some of the challenges I describe above.