By Sinéad Woods
Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the main hospital campus of Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown is The Woodlands acute care facility. Surrounded by trees and green areas, the appropriately named Woodlands specialises in the care of patients and service-users who are 75 years or more. This allows elderly patients to be cared for in a calm and comfortable environment which has been found to improve their experience in the hospital as well as aid in healing.
Image 1: Picture hanging on the walls in Woodlands showing an older man looking in the mirror to see an image of his young-self as a fireman
We were warmly greeted to Woodlands on a Thursday afternoon and to a welcome similar to one given to a patient or family member when they first arrive at the facility. The compassion of the staff working in this facility shines through in the environment. Every detail of Woodlands has be carefully curated to create a calming and a “home away from home” environment for patients, from the low playing music and thought-provoking pictures filling the corridor to the beautifully decorated dining room overlooking the gardens.
Woodlands is an example of staff vision coming to life. It is well known that front-line staff are the best placed to see solutions to problems in services. Staff at Connolly Hospital saw such an opportunity, had a shared-vision and had the motivation to see it through. The image below outlines Helen Beven’s “10 things Fab teams do” and what a “fab” team they have in Woodlands. Engagement and the qualities associated with an engaged workforce have naturally become embedded in this facility and the staff there wouldn’t have it any other way.
Image 2: Helen Bevens “10 things fab team do”
Dining with a Difference
There is a huge emphasis in Woodlands to keep the patient fit to go home and George Jefferies led the way in Woodlands with one simple idea that has proven to make a huge difference in keeping patients fit for going home – eating in a dining room. The norm in hospitals is to have patients eat their meals in bed but in some cases this leads to what has widely become known as “PJ Paralysis”. George’s idea of using one of the rooms in Woodlands as a dining room would help reduce the PJ Paralysis among this high-risk patient group by simply allowing them to get out of bed to eat their meals. In our “An Introduction to Staff Engagement” document, we listed 10 things an individual can do to be more engaged at work and George Jefferies is a staff member that proves that one person can make a huge difference. George says that the meal time routine he established at Woodlands has become the “norm” and that he no longer has to worry if he is on leave that the routine will be continued.
Image 3: The Dining Room at Woodlands which help prevent PJ Paralysis and creates social environment for patients
One poem I noticed while on the visit at Woodlands was “See Me” - a poem that was found among the processions of an elderly woman who passed away on a geriatric ward of an unknown hospital. This poem links perfectly with the images lining the halls of Woodlands showing elderly patients looking in mirrors and seeing their younger-selves. The Woodlands facility and its staff place the needs and requirements of their patients at the centre of everything they do so that their time spent in the hospital will be as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.
We’d like to thank Louise, George and Mick for the truly inspiring visit to the Woodlands facility, keep up the fantastic work!