The winter months increases the number of admissions to hospitals, leading to staff being put under huge pressures to see, treat and care for patients. During a busy shift, staff will often miss rest-breaks, opportunities to have something to eat and drink; and not even get time to go to the toilet. They may encounter a range of emergencies, challenges, emotionally-charged situations, verbal abuse, conflict and have to use many skills to deal with whatever they are faced with.
These shifts can last 12 hours or beyond, and be at unsociable hours when fatigue and tiredness can impact on the endurance of those in the middle of everything. Sometimes things can get overwhelming, resulting in not being able to do tasks effectively. I, like nearly every member of staff I've worked with over the years, get to a point where they're hungry, thirsty, tired, aching, have a full bladder, and yet are in the thick of stressful or busy situations with no sign of a let-up in proceedings to grab some time to refresh themselves.
Whilst the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Well-being Economics recommend Mindfulness as a treatment for patients, there is less focus on helping NHS staff using mindfulness. I am keen to utilise mindfulness techniques for staff to help overcome some of the problems faced each day. I believe it could have a significant positive impact on staff and on patients, too.
At a time when you feel relaxed, ask yourself what your stress symptoms are, even run a scenario at work where you felt overwhelmed and take note of what you feel in your body as you do. Then, during the course of your work, be aware of these symptoms being triggered, and give yourself one minute or so to just step away from the phone/bedside/bay or the area you are working (as long as it is safe), to run through the Red, Amber Green stress-relief points I have written. Remember that by slowing down and deepening the breath, you are helping to reduce your heart rate, which will impact on your blood pressure. When we are stressed, our heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate increase, reinforcing the stress response. Breaking the cycle can help to regulate your levels again, and allow you to feel calmer and more relaxed.
So, if you are an NHS worker, I invite you to print my Nurse's Minute (without altering it in any way; please retain my website details) to use whilst you're on shift.
I'd love to hear how you get on with this!
Nikki Harman, RGN, is a nurse working in an acute NHS hospital trust. Nikki is also a mindfulness tutor to adults and is a Connected Kids™ children's mindfulness tutor. Nikki is keen to work with NHS staff teaching mindfulness. Please contact The Inner Space Project: firstname.lastname@example.org