Listening lounges and conversations with Jasper

Case study summary 

Listening lounges have highlighted the importance of understanding potential safeguarding risks among staff, particularly during the pandemic at East Lancashire Hospital Trust (ELHT), listening lounges have:

  • enabled open, relaxed and honest discussion with nursing colleagues
  • provided access to Jasper, a trained therapy dog, successful in creating an atmosphere where people can share their experiences
  • facilitated booked sessions, supported by psychologists and other specialist staff, that have highlighted trauma experienced by nurses
  • enabled the trust to offer further dedicated support to staff for whom it would be beneficial.

Background to learning

The NHS has continued to focus on safeguarding vulnerable groups and individuals during the pandemic. Listening lounges for staff have highlighted the importance of also understanding any potential safeguarding risk among our own colleagues. Many organisations have worked with staff to raise awareness among colleagues about the possible enhanced risk to colleagues’ safety during this period.

Learning and advice to be shared

Chaplaincy colleagues at ELHT have created listening lounges to enable open, relaxed and honest discussion of the experiences of nursing staff.  These ‘Oasis’ lounges made use of donations from furniture retailers to provide comfortable and socially distanced seating in a quiet place available to staff 24 hours a day.  These drop-in spaces offer an opportunity to be mindful and to talk/share with colleagues.

The space also enables booked sessions that are supported by psychologists and other specialist staff.  Jasper, a trained therapy dog, would usually be offering a comforting presence at end of life care, but during the pandemic has been successful in creating an atmosphere where people can share their experiences. Instantly as staff arrive for a session, nurses have devoted their attention to Jasper, who diffuses tension/stress and never fails to cheer everyone up.

These sessions have highlighted trauma experienced by nurses, for example when patients they have looked after for a considerable time have died, when they have had to communicate the death of loved ones to families or sometimes because they have also felt the need to isolate from their own families.

The sessions are also enabling the trust to offer further dedicated support to staff for whom it would be beneficial, either through one-to-one sessions or, potentially, referral to occupational health services.

Since June, more than 230 staff have joined these Oasis huddles. Staff evaluation is being analysed by the trust quality improvement team and senior managers have engaged with these huddles to hear staff concerns first-hand.  There is a real sense that staff have valued their presence.

Would it be beneficial to retain these changes?

Throughout the pandemic there has been a central focus on the wellbeing of staff. The same challenges that have been amplified across society equally impact staff and, additionally, many have contended with worries for their own families as a result of their work. These huddles are a vital way for staff to support each other. Listening lounges and wobble rooms have been used widely to support staff and have often enabled colleagues in making disclosures in a safe space about their own experiences during the pandemic.

Restorative supervision is a recognised intervention which requires specialised training and support. NHS England and NHS Improvement are now rolling out a rapid programme of credited professional nurse advocate training across healthcare settings. In addition to this, the national package of support available through the NHS People website has acknowledged the challenges of undertaking emotional labour and how it can deplete a person’s ’emotional bank account’.  This national support offer has created virtual common rooms for our NHS people to come together to invest time in supporting each other during these challenging times.

Watch this video to learn more about the listening lounges and conversations with Jasper at ELHT.

Case study by Catherine Randall, Deputy Head of Safeguarding, NHS England and NHS Improvement, and deployed to East Lancashire Hospital Trust during the pandemic. For any further detail on this case study or to connect with Catherine Randall, please contact england.1professionalvoice@nhs.net