We are profiling amazing practice and community nurses, and midwives, during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of our Nursing Stars campaign, partnering with cross-sector movement New NHS Alliance. Here we speak to Sarah Noble.
What is your role?
I have the privilege of being head of midwifery at South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT). I am so proud to be a midwife, twenty years into the role, I still think it is the best job in the world. Being able to support the start of new life and new beginnings for families is so special.
What work have you been doing during the Covid outbreak?
Throughout the pandemic we have continued to support mothers to birth their babies. We have made the necessary Covid adjustments without being able to pause; unfortunately doubling up with stronger knickers doesn’t keep babies in! Having a baby even in normal times is life changing but in 2020 women have faced the additional challenges, being cared for by staff in PPE, smiles only seen through people’s eyes, new families not being able to celebrate their precious new arrival with extended family and friends. What we have tried to do at SWFT, to retain the joy and excitement of new life, is ensure every decision; especially the difficult ones places people at the centre, reflecting what matters to them, humanising care. For example for our parents we have maintained a full choice offer around place of birth and supported birth partners to attend births and scans. For our dedicated and caring maternity team we have listened to what’s important to them to try to make everyone feel as safe as possible in this strange new world.
Why would you say you are a nursing Covid star?
I am not sure I would, as I am just doing what I always have, what I love. If I am a star, I am in good company surrounded by brighter and bigger stars. Midwives day in and day out have continued to wrap care around women and have been there for each other, not knowing where or when the journey will be over. I am inspired each and every day by the kindness and determination of my maternity colleagues and the power of a birthing woman.
What have you learnt from the experience of working during Covid?
I have learnt more about leadership in a crisis and the importance of recognising where those around you are in their emotional space or zone. The diagram below, which has been widely shared on social media, explains nicely how behaviours manifest depending on how people are feeling. Because it seems to have been published without a name I, like many others when picking up on this chart, am unable to attribute it to an author (if anyone knows, please tell me, because I think it is fantastic). Generally I would say across a workforce approximately one third of staff will be in one of the three rings at any one time. Any ‘ask’ from a manager or peer has to be tailored to the zone staff are in and the same applies to those we are caring for. If people are in the fear zone, they will often not hear what is being asked or maybe will feel overwhelmed by the simplest request. It takes patience and kindness to work together with people to try and move towards the outer circle. Sometimes as a leader staff just cannot move out of the inner circle in that moment and as kind and compassionate professionals that needs to be accepted; with an agreed personalised plan going forward.
How do you think Covid will impact the way you work in the future?
Covid for me has reiterated the importance of good communication and building trusting relationships with everyone around you. In this crisis as well as face to face contacts we have used digital technology and social media more than ever to communication rapidly changing information. More appointments have been virtual and this is definitely something that I think we will see more of in the future. The speed and the reach of digital technology and online platforms has been so powerful to help retain good human connections. A simple video shared on our Maternity Update Facebook (Maternity Updates SWFT) page from staff to families reassuring them that we are here for you, received an enormous amount of likes. Families have also posted their stories on this page, even when their birth plan has not gone according to plan reassuring others that it will be okay. Families sharing with other families that the midwives and doctors at SWFT are doing an amazing job is very influential.
My final message is a simple one, as professionals let’s strive always to be kind to all but kindest to ourselves. In the depths of winter it still feels like we have a long road ahead, but I take comfort in knowing that I am on this journey with the most amazing NHS team and we will prevail. I thank you and applaud each and every one of you.