Guest Blog by Sarah Powlesland

How a cuppa and a whiteboard made all the difference…

Sarah Powlesland is a Specialist MSK Podiatrist at the Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust. She attended a Podiatry CPD session on resilience and joy in work and made it her mission to take action to reduce frustration and increase joy across her workplace.

She has successfully launched two missions so far:

‘We had a lot of new change introduced at work, which was making our jobs a lot more challenging. Combined with low staffing levels and ever increasing patient demands, it was evident that staff morale was at a low, especially in one particular clinic.

This clinic had several members of staff working from it and no one regularly. At most, one clinician may be there twice a week. There is no on-site admin. Nobody had taken overall responsibility for anything as they were only there 1 or 2 days a week and didn’t feel they had time, which impacted on the cohesion of the service delivery across the week and inequality in shared tasks that should be shared across the team.

I emailed all members of staff and asked them to reply to me with their ‘snagging list’. I wanted to know specifically what bothered them about working at this particular site and what made their jobs harder. This left me with a very long list but with several repeating factors and themes of shared frustrations.

I spent some time looking at the list with my colleagues and categorising each item as either an easy, moderate or hard fix, free fixes and cost associated fixes. We then put them in order of what meant the most to clinicians.

Top of the list was isolated working and stock. Despite there often being 3 clinicians working at the site, the clinics were so busy that nobody had a chance to pause for breath, let alone stop to chat to each other as we all work in separate clinic rooms. A new IT system was also taking time for us to get used to and compounding the lack of time to engage with the team between appointments.

My first mission was to knock and pop in to each of my colleagues’ room to ask if they wanted a drink whenever I had a chance to go. This way, if they didn’t have time to go, I could make sure they got a drink and more importantly a friendly face, even if it was only for a quick ‘hi’. This has caught on and now all team members touch base with each other. Some days I don’t get a chance to stop for a drink and other times I do. Now we all get a chance to interact as a team, not only see patients and stay hydrated (even if it does mean more trips to the bathroom)!

Another frustration was the lack of shared responsibility for re-ordering to replenish the stock room. The second mission was addressed by putting a white board in the stock room. As clinicians find they are low on stock, it is written on the board and once a week a nominated clinician will order the stock. This way, it doesn’t fall to one person to have the responsibility to check all stock locations and have to order it all. We work by the premise that if it isn’t on the board, it won’t get ordered!

The rest of the frustration list has been actioned by allocating tasks to team members and /or team leads as necessary. Everything has been addressed, even the items that nobody had thought to mention due to the associated cost! All in all, a much happier place to work now! This has had a hugely positive impact on staff morale and has really improved our team working together. It seems we all share joint niggles but unless we speak out about them, they don’t get addressed. It also demonstrated to staff the positive difference taking action has on our workplace. We have now adopted the idea that you can whinge about something only if you are prepared to do something about it, if you are not then you can’t whinge!’