Thursday, 25 February 2016

Mindful NHS

A relaxing mindfulness session I led for NHS staff 

This week a report presented at The Mindful Nation launch revealed that if Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was practised by those suffering with chronic pain and depression, there could be a saving in the NHS of £15 for every £1 spent. The Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) recommend mindfulness as a treatment for patients. This surely must be welcomed into a National Health Service at a time when so much change and disagreement is taking place? 

The thing is, that each time I read about the benefits of teaching mindfulness to patients I get a little frustrated (so I mindfully work through this, of course). To be honest, the crux of my frustration can be pin-pointed to these things:

1. I want to make people feel better. That's my job. That's my nature. I have seen the benefits of what I teach first hand, to adults and children. It seems that I am having trouble convincing the powers that be that I can have a positive influence on patient care and the well-being of staff. This is something I need to continue to work through in my own space. The whole process is teaching me more about who I am and how I react in my inner and outer worlds.

2. I want to be given the opportunity to develop a programme for staff to learn for themselves and then to teach with patients. I have it. I can do it. At the moment, nobody can hear me! I'm reaching out but the offers aren't forthcoming. What's going on? 

I feel that the NHS needs to change its culture in order to work forwards and make progress. In 2014-15, 39% of NHS staff had time off because of work-related stress. That's nearly 1 in 4 members of staff. I believe that before we can begin to teach patients mindfulness, we need to focus on staff well-being. I'm here. I have drafted a whole programme for NHS clinical staff to teach them mindfulness techniques. Hello!
As a nurse who qualified in 1997, I have seen many changes, and yet so much has stayed the same. It's time to look after ourselves, to give ourselves compassion, to listen to our inner fears and stressors, to learn how to adapt these into positives and reflect this in our professional relationships and in our delivery of care. I know what stress feels like, I work in demanding clinical areas, I've been in more senior roles in the past, so I get it. I now see things from an all-round perspective, so I do really understand the problems staff face. But I can also see ways to change the way the problems are perceived. 

I believe it begins with connection, what I call the seventh C of compassion in practice.The connection of human spirit within the nurse and patient relationship is what weaves the sometimes achingly beautiful compassion, care, courage and commitment into the art of nursing. Connection is the thread that holds everything else together. Without connection, the most basic, yet most complex circumstance is flawed. Mindfulness involves making that connection with ourselves, as well as with others. 

How many reports and recommendations will there be, in order to influence change? 

Nikki Harman, RGN, is a nurse working in an NHS trust. She is also a Connected Kids™ tutor and a mindfulness tutor to adults. Nikki is writing a book about mindfulness and teaching her new course, The Gem In The Dust. Contact Nikki at

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