To mark Random Acts of Kindness Day, we
have caught up with Siobhán O’ Brien, Assistant Director of Public Health Nursing,
North Lee Community Care Services, to talk about a kindness initiative that aims
to send ripples of compassion throughout the HSE, impacting positively on staff,
patients, service users and the wider community.
Siobhán has worked in the health services
and nursing for over 30 years and has seen first-hand the challenges involved,
and indeed the importance of respecting and supporting individuals/staff in recognising
the value they bring not only within the Health Service, but also within our
lives in general.
Working under the Government’s broader ‘Healthy
Ireland in the Health Services’ initiative, Siobhán and three of her colleagues:
Anne Power, (Wellness at Work Officer), Teresa Mc Elhinney, (Senior Health
Promotion Officer) and Mary Kells, (Principal Clinical Psychologist), with the
support of Priscilla Lynch, (Health and Wellbeing Manager), came together and formed
a sub group to see how they could nurture a culture of kindness and
self-compassion throughout the HSE.
Following careful consideration, it was
decided to launch a series of workshops for HSE staff to foster better
relationships and highlight the ripple effect that kindness can bring to staff,
patients/clients and, indeed, the wider community.
This labour of love is carried out by like
minded people, all of whom recognise the importance and potential of such an
initiative within the Health Service and from this, the ‘Kindness Works Here ‘ initiative
What was the thinking behind this initiative?
With health services under increasing
pressure – and the need to encourage our colleagues and enhance morale within
the organisation, we thought it was important for staff to know that they are
valued, sharing insights and practical tips on how to be kind to ourselves and
to others, impacting on health and wellbeing for all. This in turn will foster
a more compassionate healthcare environment by harnessing the power of kindness
throughout the working day and beyond.
How has it evolved?
Before launching our workshop, we did
extensive research and came across an Australian initiative, ‘Gathering of
Kindness’. This was created by Mary Freer and Dr Catherine Crock AM (Hush
Foundation) after identifying the direct correlation between organisational
negativity and staff wellbeing and effectiveness.
Gathering of Kindness aims to redress this
by building, nurturing and instilling a culture of kindness throughout the
healthcare system. It was exactly what we had in mind.
We also looked into and drew on scientific research
to ensure that our workshops were based on evidence-based information.
For example, David R Hamilton’s scientific
findings on The Five side-effects of Kindness,
showed that being kind can be good for one’s health and wellbeing due to
biochemical factors such as the release of certain hormones.
5 side effect of kindness
Kindness makes us happier
Kindness is good for our hearts
Kindness slows aging
Kindness improves relationships
Kindness is contagious
We also looked at the work of Dr Kristin
Neff, Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of
Texas, Austin, who carried out pioneering work on self-compassion and how it
impacts on wellbeing.
Armed with the information gathered from
these inspirational sources, we captured this concept in our Kindness Works Here poster, which we
have circulated throughout HSE services. Indeed, kindness does have a ripple
Tell us about the workshops
We have run five two-hour workshops to date
since January 2018, with approximately 100 participants attending from across a
mixture of disciplines and a broad range of health services throughout the Cork
and Kerry area. Feedback from participants has been very positive, with 100% of
respondents saying they would recommend it to a colleague.
What is your shared vision?
As this is an entirely voluntary
initiative, which we have undertaken in addition to our core roles, our work to
date has been limited to Cork and Kerry.
We believe that it is important to continue
the conversation about compassion and care because kindness is contagious. We
would love to think that the workshops could be replicated in other areas to
encourage a ripple effect of compassion and being kind to oneself and others.
Ideally, incorporating our workshops into
the HSE induction process would be a perfect way of instilling compassion into
service from the outset. There is an expectation of any healthcare professional
to be compassionate but, sometimes, we all need reminding to look after
ourselves as well as others.
people’s capacity to be good to themselves, supporting colleagues and service
users and building better relationships is very much in the spirit of Ag
Eisteacht’s work so I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to talk
about this initiative here.
Remember, it is not a single great, heroic deed that defines
who you are; it is the little things you do day-by-day that count.