Health Board directors work a shift on the sharp end to learn from staff and patients

Cwm Taf’s executive team, many of whom are former clinicians themselves, are putting their uniforms back on to find out how they can improve frontline healthcare services.
Earlier this year Cwm Taf University Health Board’s CEO Allison Williams committed herself and her team of directors to a shift each on the NHS Wales frontline as part of NHS Change Day.
Senior managers in Cwm Taf already carry out regular visits to meet staff and inspect services, but this initiative will see them actually carrying our frontline roles alongside colleagues to get a real feel for the work their 8,000 staff do every day.
Over the next few weeks 12 directors will carry out a full shift with colleagues from a range of departments including portering; catering; children’s nursing and a GP surgery. The initiative which has been filmed by ITV Wales for a documentary to be broadcast later this evening (ITV Wales, Monday October 26th, 8pm) aims to:
·         Help directors learn more about the roles of frontline staff and the pressures they face every day,
·         Enable staff and directors to exchange open and honest feedback to make a positive change for patients
·         Raise the profile of different healthcare roles and their importance in the NHS structure
Cwm Taf’s CEO Allison Williams kick-started the initiative with a shift at the A&E department in Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil. A former nurse, Allison worked as a healthcare assistant for the day to support the team.
“The initiative was intended to see how we as Directors can make some positive changes in the organisation and in the services we provide. I didn’t want it to be shadowing exercise and decided that we needed to "walk-a-mile" in someone else's shoes and see things through their eyes if we were to really understand some of the pressures they face.
“I was transported back in time to my late teenage years when I worked as a Healthcare Assistant (only we called them Auxilliary Nurses then) and I felt quite emotional as the memories of what motivated me to be a nurse in the first place came flooding back. When you are working in the care environment all the time, it is easy to forget how truly privileged you are to be able to support and care for people when they are at their most vulnerable.
“Our initiative is about engaging with staff at a whole new level by being part of their team for a day so you can understand the challenges and opportunities for change first-hand.”
Cwm Taf’s Director of Corporate Services and Governance Robert Williams joined the portering team at Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant, after more than 30 years since he worked as a porter and linen checker in the former Aberdare Hospital.
“Going back to the frontline certainly rekindled some fond memories for me and reinforced some things that I already knew from my previous experience, not least the important role that porters play in the efficient running of the hospital,” said Robert.
“It also reminded me of the important role they play in interacting with patients, carers and staff from all disciplines – very often in the most difficult and extreme circumstances.   
“People often associate portering with transferring people from A to B but they are often the ones who are comforting patients and their families after a bereavement, or providing the reassurance that is so important before an operation.
“I have already made a list of some of the things that we can hopefully address to improve things. I would also be keen to hear more of the porters’ views in future for what they need and how they think we can improve things not just for them but across Cwm Taf, as they have a rare insight into issues affecting the whole hospital.”
Lynda Williams, Cwm Taf’s Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Patient Care spent a day with the district nursing team in the Merthyr Tydfil area, which was the first step in her NHS career 22 years ago.
“Although I’ve been out with the district nurse team several times before, this was a bit different, firstly in that I was actually delivering care myself and secondly, because I had a camera following me around watching my every move!” said Lynda.
“What struck me straightaway was that patient care hasn’t changed very much at all – people’s needs are very much the same as when I first qualified as a nurse – and it felt good to be back with the patients, putting them at ease, and talking to their families and carers, making sure they felt cared for and supported.
“The first patient we visited was a gentleman who had had his leg amputated in an accident and has needed district nursing and Occupational Therapy support for a number of years. The trust he had in us and the close bond with the nurses was really humbling to see and reminded me of how important a role our community team play in supporting patients not just with their health, but their emotional needs as well. Having that daily visit means a lot to many of our patients.
“One of the things that shone from the day was how our model of care in Keir Hardie University Health Park in Merthyr Tydfil is working to integrate health and social care…and how occupational therapists, re-ablement services, district nurses, midwives and the many other staff and community services all interact with each other. I learned a lot from the shift to help improve things…for staff and patients.”
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