In this third blog of the series, I will discuss how I went about setting up a calm space as part of Chase Farm Hospital's Safety Incident Supporting Our Staff (SISOS) initiative. This allows staff to go and rest and get support if needed.
As a second victim, on reflection, the two things I recognised that I had needed were peer support and a safe psychological space. A place where I could have been supported and my dignity protected.
Over the years I’ve seen too many of my colleagues breaking down in the tea room, hiding in the sluice, or crying in the toilets. This is not acceptable. The NHS Constitution Key principal three states:
"Respect, dignity, compassion and care should be at the core of how patients and staff are treated not only because that is the right thing to do but because patient safety, experience and outcomes are all improved when staff are valued, empowered and supported".
Health Education England are now talking about safe spaces and psychological support. Our SISOS Calm Zone has been the most amazing achievement. Since the provision of our safe space, our staff talk about feeling valued. A member of staff who might have previously gone home because they had a headache, rest in this safe space and often are able to return to work safely within the shift.
I talked about setting up a safe space where staff could go and rest and be support if needed and was promised that when we moved to our new hospital building a room would be provided. For the first six months SISOS functioned without a dedicated safe space in our old building and I faced the same old challenges that I’d faced as a member of the bullying and harassment support team many years ago.
One of my roles then was to support staff who alleged bullying and the biggest challenge I always faced when I received a call was finding a suitable place to provide support. So often the support I gave was negatively impacted by an inadequate space. So I was very disappointed to find every door in our new department had a label on it and not one said SISOS Calm Zone.
This was a challenge and I approached my manager and asked nicely but directly: "Where is the room I was promised?" "You’ll need to speak to orthopaedics," came the reply and so I did.
"We have a lot of equipment", said the orthopaedic sister.
"What’s more important, your crates or our staff?" I said.
My words didn’t fall on deaf ears and our fabulous staff helped to clear the storeroom, relocate stock and also get rid of stuff we hadn’t used for years. The room is small, triangular in shape and windowless but the location is perfect.
Safety is paramount and the room is located next to the tea room and so isn’t isolated and is easily accessible without the need to wear scrubs. This is important for staff who need support but also for anyone coming in to support staff such as chaplaincy, who frequently come up to support our staff when requested.
Once we had the room I panicked a little realising that we would need to furnish it. I wrote to several charities, one of which was the Louise Tebboth Organisation. I was seeking confirmation that I was on the right track. This wonderful organisation not only supported our initiative but donated generously towards the purchase of a reclining chair. Realising that I wasn’t able to personally receive funds, I contacted our Royal Free Charity who took up the reins. They guided us and provided further funding for a woodland scene wall mural, a side table and a Himalayan Salt lamp. These simple furnishings have transformed the store room into a sanctuary of peace.
My next fear was, "What if no one uses the room?" So I put in a wooden money box with bingo counters and a short note asking people to place a counter into the box if they had used the room and felt that they had benefited from it. I wanted to maintain confidentiality but needed to know numbers. We have eight theatres in our department and in the first week I counted 52 counters, the second week 56 counters. I carried on counting for a couple of months and the lowest count was 38. We knew for certain that the room was being used and it was being used appropriately and with respect. One consultant I work with classes himself as a SISOS frequent flier. He has a ten minute power nap during his shift. So the room isn’t only used to support second victims, fortunately that isn’t needed very often, but on a daily basis staff can zone out when they need to with or without support.
We would highly recommend a safe space but if your department cannot provide any such space then look to see where a room might be found in another area that you can use to support staff. It is about planning and even if no room is available anywhere think about how you could set up a temporary safe space if needed.
My next blog will talk about take up.