My resilience toolkit: one key ingredient
Sixteen months into the scheme and I’m about a month into my final placement – how time flies when you’re having fun (sorry for the cliché). It has been a busy few months for the Policy and Strategy grads – from the end of September we’ve finished our second placement, begun our specialism-specific education with two weeks at Imperial College London, started and finished our Flexi placements, onto another week at Imperial and then returned to NHS England for our final placements (with a few essay deadlines, an experiential learning day and those all-important competency reviews thrown into the mix)!
These past few months have been a rollercoaster of emotions and have barely left me time to breathe, never mind the essential reflection time that the scheme is based around. The scheme is designed to be intense – it is a fast-track scheme after all – but the past few months have pushed me way past my comfort zone some days, and this has made me really think about how I look after my own wellbeing while working in this high pressured environment. I decided to blog about what has helped me develop my resilience in the last sixteen months on the scheme, especially the last few months which have been full of change (I don’t like change): for me, that is people.
One of the most important things for my resilience is reminding myself of my motivations. Whenever I am stressed at work, I try to remember my motivations for joining the NHS. There are so many ways to do this: sometimes it is to write them on a post it note and stick them on my monitor; when I was in the acute I would go for a wander around the hospital and see the frontline happening before me. In NHS England, this is a little more difficult so I seek out passionate people and speak to them about the work and why we are here. It is amazing how a small conversation with someone about your work and seeing and hearing it from their perspective can refresh your view on it and your view on the day.
If I cannot seek someone out to talk to, I remember all the passionate people I have met, both on the job and before it. There is the paramedic who came out for my sister when we were younger and calmed us down on the ride to the hospital by talking to us about her dog, showing us pictures of her black Labrador, and the matron in the acute hospital who has dedicated her life to helping give better patient care and spoke so fervently to me about ways to improve the service for the patients. I remember the GPs in clinical director roles I have met who were inspired to deliver patient care on a larger scale, or my Programme Manager who inspires great leadership in me every day and pushes me to reach my potential. These are just a few of those who have encouraged me, there is no denying that the NHS is full of great people, and I am grateful every day to have been given the opportunity to join this community of care givers.
Crucial to my resilience, which GMTS will tell you every day, is the support system that the Grad Scheme creates, both formal and informal. The NHS is full of kind people and I have had the fortune to work with quite a few so far who I go back to for a chat or some support every now and again, colleagues and managers in my teams, my mentors and the ever present twitter community!
The Grad Scheme for me has also helped me foster friendships I know will last a lifetime and they are my rock when I am having a bad day. To have someone there experiencing the same stresses as you, doing the same education, seeing the same roadblocks as you, or just in the same system and understanding your situation is priceless. Through the scheme, I have met grads who have instilled confidence in me that I didn’t know I had; who have taught me things I didn’t know; and I have one grad friend who saves memes to send me when I am sad or stressed – that is true friendship!
My final thinking on how people inspire my resilience caused me to reflect inward. I’ll be the first to admit that self-care is not my strong point. For me, my resilience also comes from me admitting that I cannot be 100% all the time and giving myself time to recharge. Just in case doing a full time job and a PGDip aren’t enough, I am also learning British Sign Language and volunteering as a British Red Cross first aider, so I rarely have time to sit and do nothing. I’ve always loved being busy but the Grad scheme, and especially these last few months, have made me realise that it is important to take time to do nothing/very little and binge watch that Netflix series, finish that book I started months ago, bake cakes and do yoga.
As an introvert, I get energy from me and taking the time to sleep properly, eat well and do the little things I love is very important for me to feel ready to face the world again. I’ve learned to achieve balance in my work/life and I’m trying not to burn out by doing everything – it is okay to say ‘no’ if you don’t have the capacity and that is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned on the scheme. Resilience isn’t about giving everything all the time, it is also about recognising when to take a step back. The saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup: take care of yourself first’ is my new mantra, and I hope to carry this forward, taking care of myself and letting others help me to do that, so I can give my best self to the job (but not 100% of my life).