A Staff Engagement Forum was established in Mayo University Hospital as part of the hospital’s commitment to quality improvement.
Expressions of interest were invited in early 2017 and the first meeting was held in April 2017, attended by 20 people.
Caroline Browne, Assistant Staff Support Supervisor, said she responded to the invitation because she felt there was a disconnect between staff on the ground and senior management in the hospital.
“I felt staff didn’t know enough about what was going on at upper management level and that there was low morale among them. I had worked as a member of the support staff so I felt I had an insight into what staff on the ground were feeling and what they were thinking. Staff felt there was a lack of information, a lack of knowledge among them.”
Sarah Ronayne, Occupational Therapist, said she responded to the invitation after she had been involved in a Winter Initiative Project to improve patient flow in the hospital.
“I was part of a team establishing a new service. I felt some of the challenges I encountered could be faced using the principles of staff engagement.
“Engage with people, get them on board. I felt staff engagement might be a way to keep things going and develop new ways of working. It could also be a way to deal with low morale.”
Derek Gormley, a chaplin in the hospital, said: “I was a relatively new member of staff and I wanted to get to know other staff I was working with. “
Caroline said she had witnessed a disconnect among different grades of staff in the hospital and between different departments and disciplines.
“People sometimes work in silos and one area may not know what the other is about. I got an insight into the demands on different departments, through my supervising work. Each department has its own agenda but through staff engagement we can connect the staff. We can all play a part in tackling low morale, no matter what our grade is.”
Sarah said the principles of staff engagement can work very well.
“A community ethos, respect for each other, recognition of each other and support for each other. We need to make the best of the situation we are currently in. We need to support each other and build an environment around us that is positive to be in. It can be draining to work in health if you don’t have a network to support you through dealing with health and social crises.
“Health workers are dealing with people getting life-altering news and living through life-altering events. People are coming to you in their time of need and that can be emotionally testing and trying. The support of colleagues can make all the difference to how you feel about how you have dealt with a patient.
Derek said it was important that people took time to stop and say hello. That simple action could make their colleagues' jobs easier.
“I would be in favour of changing the culture and getting back to the idea of people having time for people.”
The Forum reports to the hospital management team once a month and takes feedback from management.
Two big themes to emerge are communications to staff and making the hospital a more positive place to work.
“People are telling us that they don’t know enough about what is happening. They would like to see improvements in communications between the hospital management team and front line staff.
At the formal launch of the Hospital Forum last September, staff were asked how they wanted to be communicated with. During a ‘meet and greet’ session which began at 7am, more than 300 suggestions were received from staff who used post-its and placed them on a special notice board.
Themes that emerged included staff wellbeing, flu vaccinations for staff, Healthy Ireland initiatives, lunchtime walks and runs and Schwartz Rounds. Staff's desire to acquire a digital identity was also a common theme. One suggestion was to host coffee mornings where staff of all grades could get to meet each other.
Following the launch, the Forum has engaged with the hospital's IT department to discuss the provision of additional platforms for staff to engage with each other.
A leaflet, giving updates on the issues raised and how they are being addressed, has been distributed to more than 200 staff.
Sarah said: “Staff see that the Forum has something positive to offer. We are learning about staff engagement as we go about the business of staff engagement. Lots of people value face-to-face communications. It’s hard to replace interpersonal communications.”