Recently I had the honour of being the keynote speaker at the South West Better Births conference.
The topic of my presentation was 'From Me to We: Sharing Stories, Working Together, Transforming Services'.
The South West Clinical Network covers a large geographical area, from Gloucestershire all the way down to Cornwall and including the Scilly Isles. Challenges include huge rural areas, and myriad organisations (NHS such as hospitals, GPs, clinical commissioning groups; and local authorities with public health, as well as others) responsible for the health and wellbeing of women, babies, and their families.
A key focus of my talk was to encourage delegates to transcend geographical and organisational boundaries in order to provide the best-possible care and support to women, babies and families.
In order to influence successful, sustainable change, we need to work together.
Organisational boundaries can sometimes get in the way of successful collaboration: strategies and aims don't always align (this is true of all specialties, anywhere).
Clashes can occur even within organisations: as I described in my personal story, when I was a patient in intensive care after my son was born staff from that ward, neonatal, and maternity argued over whose responsibility I was. So siloed was their thinking they forgot there were two human beings (me and my critically ill baby son) who needed one another.
And that's the crux: remembering that we are all human beings.
We usually focus on the what - managing programmes, reporting data, working towards targets. These are all important of course! We also need the why: our purpose, our values behind our work.
Sharing stories: about the people who use our services, and about the people who care for those people are a brilliant way of connecting with our why. Stories help us remember that human beings are behind the job roles and the data.
We can gain those stories by building connections with people. Through building a spectrum of allies by proactively seeking conversations with diverse groups of people, those who may hold divergent views, including people at all levels of an organisation as well as service users, families, carers.
Through those connections, we can support each other to take action, rather than waiting for permission. We can support one another when we are feeling stressed, with a million and one priorities. Change takes time, so when feels like progress is happening at a pace slower than a tortoise wading through treacle we can remind one another of the progress we have already made and maintain our focus.
And being human, none of us has all the answers. That's why we need each other.
Let's work together.
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We do not become transformed alone, we become transformed when we are in relationship with others. Hahrie Hahn