Chaplain's staff support service recognised
A Baptist hospital chaplain who developed a staff support programme has been featured in a national Care Quality Commission publication highlighting people who have made a difference in NHS Trusts
The Revd Sarah Crane is team chaplain at Milton Keynes University Hospital, where in 2016 she launched a peer-to-peer staff listening service.
The Care Quality Commission is the independent regulator of all health and social care services in England. Its recent publication Driving Improvements highlighted individuals who have made a difference in NHS trusts around the country. The peer-to-peer staff listening service, and Sarah’s role in developing it, is featured alongside stories of surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics and managers.
The listening service was devised to make sure that staff who need a listening ear can stop anyone in the trust wearing an easily identifiable badge. To date the trust has trained 51 volunteers, who in the first 19 months of the service talked to 1,045 staff. Of the conversations around 40 per cent were work related, and 60 per cent were not.
Sarah explained that the service came about after a staff survey highlighted a need for more staff support. A colleague had heard about a similar peer-to-peer service the East Midlands Ambulance Service which aimed to tackle an increase in long term sickness and mental health problems.
‘We felt that it would be really good to try and do something similar here,’ Sarah said. ‘The rationale was very simple – patient experience and staff experience are very closely linked. We can’t expect staff to weather all storms, at home and at work and just keep going without being able to talk about the things which are bothering them.’
Staff were invited to be supportive listening volunteers. They were given half a day training on listening skills and basic techniques.
The service doesn’t offer advice or counselling but signposts people to more specific support and information where the volunteer feels that would be helpful. Sarah’s hope is that no one feels they have to go home from work carrying a burden they could have talked to someone about.
‘I think all of us know the benefit of talking to someone when you’re feeling a bit cross, tired or grumpy, but it’s also about the bigger things of life that can easily get any of us down,’ she said.
‘From my perspective, our staff are our greatest resource in every sense and it’s a total privilege to be at the heart of trying to care for the people who offer our wider community such kindness and compassion.’
Sarah also spoke of her delight at the way volunteers, staff and board have responded to the service.
‘I am really proud of the support our volunteers are offering. It is humbling the way staff want to support each other and make sure that both friends and strangers and able to have a shoulder to cry on.
‘For me, one of the benefits of formalising things a bit is that it gives permission on both sides – both to the person giving the support and to the person in need of a listening ear – that the hospital board see the value of caring for our staff.
‘Having launched in September 2016 I am delighted that the service has continued to grow and receive support from the hospital board here. Each one of our volunteers is an ambassador for the hope that each member of the hospital team will feel that they matter and are worthy of kindness and a listening ear.
‘Hospital chaplaincy is an immense privilege and I feel very fortunate to be working here at Milton Keynes.’