Learning from our staff during Covid-19

How did your work life change during the pandemic, and what has been the effect on you, and your colleagues?

Throughout the pandemic colleagues across the Trust worked tirelessly, in an agile and responsive way.  But we knew we needed to take time to reflect and ask questions like this.
As part of the Trust’s learning and insights programme we have been collaborating with colleagues to understand the range and depth of the effects of the pandemic and how the Trust can listen, respond and learn, to make changes to support individuals and teams in the future.  This has only been possible with the generous support of our staff and their willingness to share experiences in an honest and open way.

We spent time over the summer with colleagues listening to their personal reflections and experiences. We also circulated a short questionnaire asking colleagues to share, celebrate and identify positive thoughts as well as raise areas of concern, offer possible change ideas and inform the Trust about what feels important for the future and next Covid-19 surge.
We heard  many amazing personal stories and got a real sense of staff displaying the Trust values and supporting a culture of team-work and comradery.  One colleague summed this up perfectly “We proved we could do it! Everyone accepted we were in an exceptional situation, the ask was unprecedented.  We rolled up our sleeves; colleagues went out outside their role. We were professional, generous with time, pragmatic and professional with each other. We should all be very proud.”

Staff found the Trust communication vital to keep up to date and connected.  However, the impact of the pandemic did identify many challenges both at an individual and team level. Many staff expressed anxiety around the uncertainty of the situation, trying to balance the demands of work and home life.  Many found the ever changing guidance confusing both from a manager perspective but also personally, particularly staff with underlying health conditions.

Health and wellbeing become a hot topic and many teams created opportunities to support each other.  The Trust was responsive and provided helplines, increased contact services, wobble rooms, food and facilities to help keep our staff well in these difficult times.  Many employees felt supported and made to feel welcome when redeployed or undertaking a new role, but many expressed a need to know as early as possible when they could be redeployed again.  This uncertainty increased anxiety. 
Some of our key professional groups responded in a proactive way to support each other, building networks and core groups to update each other, share learning and feel connected.  This in turn led to a sense of staff psychological safety.

Even though there have been significant positives, many staff have shared ideas for improvement and reflected on more challenging experiences. Common experiences included challenges with equipment, distribution of fit testing, isolation when shielding and a feeling of not being able to contribute to the Covid-19 response.  

What next?

The information and experiences colleagues have shared have been discussed with our senior colleagues and executive team.  This in turn has led to colleagues responding and learning from this feedback in a proactive way to ensure we are better prepared now.  The learning and insights group want staff to know that their voices and experiences have been heard and used to enhance and develop our services and wider Trust approach to the pandemic.  Many of these ideas have generated new process and policy. These include a review of all staff areas including rest rooms and a plan to refurbish and update with the support of Imperial Health Charity.  Securing a number of initiatives which were implemented in response to the first wave have been continued and now business as usual including the clinical decision support panel, clinical reference group, PPE helpers, staff health and wellbeing helpline and many more.

How you can continue to be involved?

We are now taking this initial learning and feedback and developing a user insights function which will ensure we can receive and utilise staff experiences to drive change and improve experiences.  This will enable all staff to share and participate and the hope is staff will be front and centre in driving a learning environment which will increase staff satisfaction and patient experience.  Please continue to look at the intranet for further details.  If you would like to be part of the development of the insights work then please do get in touch at imperial.quality.improvement@nhs.net 

Finally we would like to say a huge thank you to all staff for their hard work and contribution to the pandemic and your dedication to ensure we have learnt and developed our response to a second wave.

Thank you and stay safe.