Connecting, learning and reflecting through COVID-19 – Mandy Young

“Covid has had an impact on us all both professionally and on a personal level.”

Mandy Young made the brave step into management this year, taking up the post of Deputy Sister at Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit in Antrim at one of the most challenging times – the start of a pandemic.

In the Northern Trust’s weekly series of Nightingale Blogs, Mandy describes her new role as Deputy Sister and the speed at which she had to adapt as well as open and honest communication, networking and leadership skills required.

Mandy Young, Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit
Mandy Young, Deputy Sister, Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit, Antrim Area Hospital

I have been in Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit for five years now and was appointed as the Clinical Sister in November 2019. I was delighted to be nominated as a Northern Nightingale and commenced the Northern Nightingale Challenge Programme at the start of 2020. My main objectives were to develop my confidence and learn how to be an effective and informed leader. The challenges and learning from the Nightingale Challenge has already inspired me to take a brave step and make the change to management – in spring of this year, I was so pleased to be appointed as Deputy Sister of Laurel House.

I commenced my post just as the Covid-19 pandemic really took off. I had to adapt to my new role quickly and efficiently to be able to provide support and guidance to the rest of the staff.  Within the unit there were many changes that had to be implemented across the multi-disciplinary team, to ensure the safety of service users and staff during the pandemic.  People were already concerned about how the pandemic would affect them and then their normal routine of attending the unit changed.  It was a worrying time for patients and their families and this meant that reassurance and communication became a more enhanced part of the role.­

There is no better way to learn than being on the job. I feel that I have developed more confidence in my communication skills and in effectively delegating to staff and ensure the efficient running of the unit under the current pressures.  My manager has been a brilliant support and very patient with answering my constant questions!  At the moment I feel that I have met some of the objectives I had set out for myself but the leadership self-assessment tool which I completed as part of the Nightingale Challenge has shown me I still have a lot to learn!

More open and honest communication

The Covid-19 pandemic has given me the opportunity to develop and engage with various professionals within the Trust. As a leader, it has given me the chance to continue to develop the service that we provide, but in a different way. The Chemotherapy Unit provides a 24 hour triage helpline and the inpatient ward supports this service out of hours.  I am part of the working group to improve the triage helpline for all staff and service users.  It has been beneficial for me to listen and gain a greater understanding of how the out of hours service delivers the helpline services within the context of the other operational demands of the ward. Quite often when working in one particular area you can forget that other areas have their own work to do.  Developing a network with the staff in the inpatient ward has allowed for more open and honest communication and any issues can be easily discussed and a solution found collaboratively.

As part of my role I have to be able to adapt to any evolving situation throughout the day. We often provide unscheduled supportive therapies in response to patient care needs such as blood transfusions.  Medical staff have been very supportive in understanding that as Deputy Manager I have to ensure the safe and effective running of the unit at all times and that effective communication within our whole team is key to this.  Starting my new role has also given me the opportunity to build professional networks with the senior management team within cancer services. The team has been closely involved in developing any changes that have occurred within the unit due to Covid-19. Their experience in management has been invaluable to me as I develop my own leadership and management skills in supporting the staff through the pandemic.

The style of leadership that stands out for me the most is collective leadership. This is a form of leadership I have observed in my own workplace.  It is vital that a leader is open, honest and compassionate at any time and not just when working through the impact of a pandemic.  One example of collective leadership I have observed within the unit is staff nurses taking on the role of coordinator.  The coordinator takes charge of the clinic, ensuring that treatments run on time and dealing with any issues that may arise in a timely manner; this originally would have been carried out by a more senior nurse.  From this, I have noted positive feedback from staff – they feel empowered and trusted to make decisions regarding clinics.  They also learn the importance of leading and delegating to staff and I hope these skills can enhance their future career development.

As the Deputy Sister, staff are aware that I am there for support and guidance but not to take away their opportunity to learn and develop new skills. All the staff nurses within Laurel House have a champion role – the champions then take the lead on audit, service improvement and arranging or delivering training of the other staff for whatever delegated area of nursing they are champion of.  As a leader I hope to continue to empower staff and provide them with opportunities to develop and improve their skills and hopefully one day they can become leaders themselves.

Juggling work and home life

I have always been a ‘just get on with it’ kind of individual but the pandemic has taught me that it is ok to ask for help if I need it and I have tried to communicate this with staff within the unit. The pandemic has resulted in massive changes not just for my own area of nursing but across the whole Trust and people have needed to adapt quickly. Covid has had an impact on us all both professionally and on a personal level.  It has highlighted, more than ever, the importance of self-care and our team ethos throughout has been ‘look after yourself, and others’.  While I have my own coping strategies, as a leader I am also conscious of assisting and supporting the other professionals within my working area to develop their own coping strategies too.  Now more than ever teamwork and supporting your colleagues is essential to help everyone get through their day. Although face to face events within the Nightingale Challenge have been temporarily suspended, it’s lovely that we have been able to connect in other ways.  It’s reassuring to know that I have the support network there as everyone is trying to juggle work and home life – one of our zoom meetings included our children in the background, it made for an interesting meeting!   Personally, as difficult sometimes as it can be, I try to leave my work life at work, at home I am a wife and a mammy.  As hard as a day may have been nothing seems to feel half as bad once I have had a cuddle with my one year old!

Mandy Young, Deputy Sister
Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit, Antrim Area Hospital

The Nightingale Challenge has been launched by Nursing Now – a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing to improve health globally in collaboration with the International Council of Nursing and the World Health Organisation.  The campaign encourages healthcare employers to support at least 20 nurses and midwives to develop their leadership skills during the 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

@nhsctrust #NorthernNightingales
@NursingNow2020 #NursingNowNI #NightingaleChallenge

Other Northern Trust Nightingale Blogs

Gemma McClean, Hospital Diversion Nursing Sister
Judith Shevlin, Community Mental Health Nurse
Denise O’Donnell, Acting Ward Manager, Covid-19 assessment ward

Eleni McCrea, Community Midwife, Whiteabbey Hospital
Stacey Barclay, Midwife, C2, Antrim Area Hospital
Vanessa Best, Community Mental Health Nurse, Oakview House
Kirsty Wallace, Staff Nurse, Antrim Area Hospital
Christine Beare, Staff Nurse, Neonatal, Antrim Area Hospital
Laura Smith, Midwife, Causeway Hospital, Coleraine

Northern Nightingales

2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife logo

18th August 2020

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