To mark Random Acts of Kindness Day, we have caught up with Siobhán O’ Brien, Assistant Director of Public Health Nursing, North Lee Community Care Services, to talk about a kindness initiative that aims to send ripples of compassion throughout the HSE, impacting positively on staff, patients, service users and the wider community.
Siobhán has worked in the health services and nursing for over 30 years and has seen first-hand the challenges involved, and indeed the importance of respecting and supporting individuals/staff in recognising the value they bring not only within the Health Service, but also within our lives in general.
Working under the Government’s broader ‘Healthy Ireland in the Health Services’ initiative, Siobhán and three of her colleagues: Anne Power, (Wellness at Work Officer), Teresa Mc Elhinney, (Senior Health Promotion Officer) and Mary Kells, (Principal Clinical Psychologist), with the support of Priscilla Lynch, (Health and Wellbeing Manager), came together and formed a sub group to see how they could nurture a culture of kindness and self-compassion throughout the HSE.
Following careful consideration, it was decided to launch a series of workshops for HSE staff to foster better relationships and highlight the ripple effect that kindness can bring to staff, patients/clients and, indeed, the wider community.
This labour of love is carried out by like minded people, all of whom recognise the importance and potential of such an initiative within the Health Service and from this, the ‘Kindness Works Here ‘ initiative has evolved.
What was the thinking behind this initiative?
With health services under increasing pressure – and the need to encourage our colleagues and enhance morale within the organisation, we thought it was important for staff to know that they are valued, sharing insights and practical tips on how to be kind to ourselves and to others, impacting on health and wellbeing for all. This in turn will foster a more compassionate healthcare environment by harnessing the power of kindness throughout the working day and beyond.
How has it evolved?
Before launching our workshop, we did extensive research and came across an Australian initiative, ‘Gathering of Kindness’. This was created by Mary Freer and Dr Catherine Crock AM (Hush Foundation) after identifying the direct correlation between organisational negativity and staff wellbeing and effectiveness.
Gathering of Kindness aims to redress this by building, nurturing and instilling a culture of kindness throughout the healthcare system. It was exactly what we had in mind.
We also looked into and drew on scientific research to ensure that our workshops were based on evidence-based information.
For example, David R Hamilton’s scientific findings on The Five side-effects of Kindness, showed that being kind can be good for one’s health and wellbeing due to biochemical factors such as the release of certain hormones.
5 side effect of kindness
We also looked at the work of Dr Kristin Neff, Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas, Austin, who carried out pioneering work on self-compassion and how it impacts on wellbeing.
Armed with the information gathered from these inspirational sources, we captured this concept in our Kindness Works Here poster, which we have circulated throughout HSE services. Indeed, kindness does have a ripple effect!
Tell us about the workshops
We have run five two-hour workshops to date since January 2018, with approximately 100 participants attending from across a mixture of disciplines and a broad range of health services throughout the Cork and Kerry area. Feedback from participants has been very positive, with 100% of respondents saying they would recommend it to a colleague.
What is your shared vision?
As this is an entirely voluntary initiative, which we have undertaken in addition to our core roles, our work to date has been limited to Cork and Kerry.
We believe that it is important to continue the conversation about compassion and care because kindness is contagious. We would love to think that the workshops could be replicated in other areas to encourage a ripple effect of compassion and being kind to oneself and others.
Ideally, incorporating our workshops into the HSE induction process would be a perfect way of instilling compassion into service from the outset. There is an expectation of any healthcare professional to be compassionate but, sometimes, we all need reminding to look after ourselves as well as others.
Enhancing people’s capacity to be good to themselves, supporting colleagues and service users and building better relationships is very much in the spirit of Ag Eisteacht’s work so I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to talk about this initiative here.
Remember, it is not a single great, heroic deed that defines who you are; it is the little things you do day-by-day that count.