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Insight 28 January 2021

Helping our NHS heroes cope with stress through the pandemic

Insights has had the privilege of working with University Hospital of Morecambe Bay Trust, NHS England to help their teams cope with stress through the challenges of COVID-19. Helen Pye, Improvement Lead for the Morecambe Bay Trust and Insights Client Practitioner, shares her own and the experiences of her team in one of the most challenging years faced by the NHS in recent times.

In May 2020, at the height of the first wave of COVID-19, sadly there were fewer patients walking out the respiratory ward than were admitted. Death rates were high across the country; patient pathways kept changing as new intelligence of the virus was gained; and the team were experiencing incredible amounts of pressure and stress, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Helen saw an opportunity to support the team in building their resilience through a greater understanding of personal preferences, styles and recognising stress triggers. Helen explains:

Our learning adventure started in May with the senior members of our team who were definitely not a team in trouble, but a very capable team who would benefit and thrive from personal development tools.

Demands on the team like quick decision making, agility and resilience had never been higher. For a team whose preference is predominantly Earth Green, this way of working was out of their comfort zone. Those who lead with Earth Green energy tend to prefer a more caring, patient and relaxed approach, with enough time to think through decision making logically.

Helen told Insights,

One of the exercises that really brought home how much people had drawn on their different colour energies was the situational and circumstantial analysis. It became clear that situations typical of the pandemic demanded very high levels of Fiery Red energy – quick decision making and direct communication with changing circumstances.
We looked at the different situations through an Earth Green lens and this gave people an explanation as to why they felt the way they did. The team were burnt out, exhausted and in some cases constantly felt caught off guard. A better understanding of personal preference and the impact of tapping into a style that is least natural to someone helped the team combat feelings of uncertainty and at the same time re-motivated people by highlighting just how much great work they had achieved in such difficult circumstances.
We also looked at the skills each person brought to the team, what they thought was missing and how they could collectively bridge those gaps knowing what they know now about themselves and each other after using their profiles in group workshops. This helped to build even stronger unity across the team by highlighting and appreciating difference. People had new resiliency tools through a greater understanding of themselves and others, as well as a clear picture of achievement and forward momentum.

Helen and the team are now working with all nursing staff on ward 37 to help them cope with the stress of COVID-19’s second wave and to re-motivate the team. One team member shares his thoughts before the workshops started:

Helen is currently facilitating workshops for coping with stress with the wider team that focus on how to recognise when pressure turns to stress for themselves and others, what their stress triggers are and the behaviours that are exhibited as a result.

Helen continues,

It doesn’t fix everything, but it gives the team a new perspective on how to manage stress, be resilient and what the next steps forward are. We will discuss the benefits of understanding everyone’s stress behaviours so others can intervene early to help people deal with those. People are always the first to point out their own weaknesses but by having others in the team highlight their strengths, this will allow the team understand how they can help each other strengthen their weaknesses as a unit, and cope with stress more effectively together.

What’s next on the Insights learning journey for the Morecambe Bay Trust?

We plan to do more work with the eight types, which I find can be less restrictive, particularly for people who have a strong mix of colour energies. Working with the eight types can also avoid people feeling like they’ve been pigeonholed and can bring greater flexibility to people’s approaches, although the work we’ve done so far this year with the team would demonstrate that everyone is more than capable of dialling up even their least preferential colour energy to use that as their dominant colour energy if necessary.
I’m so proud of the team and what they have achieved, it’s been a pleasure to give something back.
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