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First hand learning is extremely powerful

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Returning from my second week out connecting has provided me with a point on which to reflect on my experiences to date, and consider how they are changing the way that I am doing my job.

From ward to ward

In July I spent a week at Watford Hospital.

The week involved a real mix of experiences across the entire hospital including a day in A&E, time spent talking to patients whilst serving lunches and making teas on a medical ward, a morning in theatre watching a keyhole repair of an aortic aneurism and shadowing physiotherapists on a ward of patients recovering from fractured neck operations.

At Kingston Hospital, where I spent my second week connecting, I shadowed staff working in theatre and was privileged to be present at the birth of two babies to mothers who were both having elective caesareans.  I also spent time with a community midwife in a local clinic, and visited new mothers and babies in their homes. Being on the busy labour ward at Kingston brought much joy, with several healthy births, but it also brought sadness with three stillbirths, an unusually high number for one day. The experience did however provide me with a real-life insight into the emotional aspects of the job for staff supporting patients.

So, what did I learn?

First hand learning is extremely powerful.

In Watford, it was the really obvious observation about the significant older age profile of patients across the hospital, the barriers around limited IT and the delays caused when sharing records of medicines between GPs, community pharmacies, hospitals and patients themselves.

In Kingston, it was the impact of unpredictable demand for services, the support for patient choice, and the importance of investment in prevention through supporting new mothers to help bring down rates of post natal depression.

In both hospitals the patience and dedication of staff was enormous, and equally their willingness and pride in the jobs that they do and the services they provide.  My work in the Francis Public Inquiry Response Team looked at the benefits of supporting NHS staff to deal with the emotional stresses of their jobs - my experience at Kingston of seeing the joys and sadness that can occur within just one day on the labour ward made this all very real.

And how will I do my job differently?

The opportunities I have experienced as a result of 'connecting' already have and will continue to really change the way I do my job. From the greater appreciation of the amazing jobs NHS staff do, to understanding better the values, skills and patience they demonstrate, to thinking about my policy development and implementation plans with greater awareness of the staff and patient perspective, to extending my network of contacts who can help me in my day job, to providing a channel back to DH to influence national policy.

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