For about the first year of working at Earl Mountbatten Hospice I didn’t feel as if I knew people in our main hospice building. We’d come up to the building once a month for a meeting, but it felt as if we were visitors rather than part of the overall team.
As the face of the hospice on the high street we also felt embarrassed; one of our keys roles should be to give key messages to our customers and know our organisation inside out.
But we realised, as the retail department, that we didn’t know what happened across many areas of our work.
And, conversely, it was very evident that many of the clinical staff did not know what happened in retail – they knew we had shops and were very aware of fundraising and our major events, but they didn’t understand the sheer scale or the processes behind our retail operation.
An opportunity came up for a diverse range of staff roles to take part in a management course called Leading from the Middle, the idea being that middle managers can influence both upwards and downwards through the organisation.
We looked at our management styles, how we presented ourselves, and then started to look at the business. We looked at the public’s perception of the hospice and talked about where we wanted to go in the future. When we got to the future-facing part, we looked at what staff were passionate about, and what would have the most impact on the organisation.
We were encouraged to partner with people who we didn’t always work with, building relationships with them and understanding their place in the organisation.
Eventually, a number of project groups were formed and ours involved multiple roles from across the hospice, the majority of whom were not people I’d worked with before.
Our group decided to focus on the experiences of people at the end of their lives and how we could tell our story and the many different ways we enable people to live life to the full.
What I was most surprised about was what some of our nurses do for our patients and families. As an employee and a resident, if I didn’t know, then were our community, who use our services and are aware about the hospice, know about the great things that they do?
Some of the examples I heard about included nurses supporting patients to feel the rain on their face, sit outside with a glass of wine, and even bringing horses to a patient’s window so that she could see her beloved pets one last time.
For most people, hospice shops are somewhere you go to grab a bargain and people don’t think about our services until they need them. So we wanted to use our shops, not just as somewhere you would go to buy something, but also a window onto the work of our hospice.
We gathered as many patient and family stories as we could and thought about a way to show off those stories to our visiting public.
We decided to trial the project in one of our shops in the main town; our shop manager painted sunflowers (our hospice emblem) on the walls, the centres of which were then filled with the words of the stories.
We also produced leaflets featuring one of the stories, which on the reverse have a ‘what’s on’ guide to events at the hospice.
What we’ve learnt
The key thing I took away from the course was about relationships. When we all work together, we can produce amazing results. The learning for the business and for the organisation is that we’ve got some people who are very good at set things. Rather than working individually, we should continue to bring different and very diverse roles together to help us to deliver our strategy across all areas.
You can read more about the Meaningful Moments project, and watch a video of the launch, on the Earl Mountbatten Hospice website.