Health professionals spend their working days caring for and supporting others, often neglecting their own needs. They have a constant kindness output, and very little – if any – time for kindness input and caring for themselves. Our projects at Southmead hospital have been focussed on bringing some kindness and compassion to those who devote their lives to caring for ours.
From January to March this year we were in residence in the Women’s and Children’s Unit at Southmead Hospital. Growing from our initial project at the beginning of 2019, this year we focussed on exploring self compassion and kindness with the staff in the maternity department.
Our aim was to use creativity to help the staff stop, slow down and reflect on their kindness input. To help them consider what are the things that fill them up, and how to make more time for that. In our digital world, making something with your hands slows you down and brings you back into your body. It reminds you that you’re human.
We took over an old kitchen and staff room in the Maternity Unit and transformed it into a popup Dept of Kindness. It was filled with permission slips, reports of incidents of kindness, a cosy sofa and a table to gather around for lunch time creative kindness workshops.
“I was walking out after my shift and I saw the glow coming from the door. It drew me in and stopped in the quiet and sat on the sofa for a moment.”
The reflections that came out of the creative sessions were incredibly powerful, and we have shared some of these below. We discovered a lot of common themes around rushing, being busy with much to do, and feeling guilty around taking a break in case people were let down.
One nurse even said “we are humans, but patients don’t always see you like that… we are just humans doing our best.”
We’re so glad to have been able to give some of the amazing staff at Southmead hospital a chance to pause, reflect and give themselves some much deserved self care.
If you’re reading this and you’re a health professional, we hope this gives you permission to ask yourself what you might need today.
And for the rest of us, perhaps we can absorb the words spoken below and keep them to heart next time we need healthcare support. Spread kindness.
“This project has made me stop and think about doing the things that support each of us. Things that I have forgotten about. It’s made me stop and ask – ‘what is that I love to do?'”
“I notice that we often overlook doing what we need to do to look after ourselves. It goes to the bottom of the list and by the time you get there you’ve run out of time.”
“I don’t know what it is that stops us from doing the things that support us and take the time – it feels like you’re doing something wrong. But when you do take the time it’s not like anyone says ‘what are you doing?’ Usually, it’s the opposite – they are pleased you are doing something for you.”
“As women, we tend not to look after ourselves or take the time to do something like this. We see it almost as a reward rather than a necessity, something we can get to after we have finished everything else.”
“Since this project started I’ve been thinking about how I look after myself, how you demonstrate kindness to yourself and modelling it. It about finding things you like again – remembering who you are.”
“I took a permission slip yesterday and I did what it said – do one thing a time. Normally I’m multi-tasking everything rushing around. I did what it said and I still got everything done.”
A massive thank you to the fabulous artists Rachel Merelie Davis, Katie Burge for all your creative magic, to Fresh Arts and Southmead Hospital Charity for supporting the project and Women’s and Children Unit at Southmead for making us so welcome.