David Hammacott - Clinical Nurse Manager at Fieldbay

Name:  David Hammacott

Company Name: Fieldbay

Company description:  Care home group for individuals with brain injury and/or dementia/mental infirmity, learning disability and functional mental illness.

What is your role at the company?

I am Clinical Nurse Manager and I deputise for the Group Senior Nurse when she is away.  This involves overall clinical responsibility for all our homes, and includes:

  • Clinical issues with service users
  • Staffing issues
  • All local health boards in respect of new service users, funding and reviewing existing service users
  • Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) inspections of the homes

There are currently 107 service users, 320 staff and 7 units within Fieldbay.

Why did you decide this was the right course for you?

I had both personal and professional reasons for undertaking this course.  I suffer with hereditary hypertension and my role is inevitably quite stressful.   I had previously attended a course which focused on how to look after yourself and found it useful.  When the mindfulness course became available, I looked more deeply into it and saw it might help me both personally and in my role.  The Operations Manager at the time looked after the staff environment and the wellbeing of service users and their families, and was passionate about how mindfulness might help us as a company.

From a managerial point of view, the business was and is growing.  Although supervision takes place, mindfulness is another way to help me take stock, helping me think more clearly before meetings and in potentially stressful circumstances.  I am a reasonably measured person; however there are some things which I am passionate about so mindfulness is an effective approach for me to take in these circumstances.

What new skills were you hoping to develop at the start of the course?

I was hoping to enhance my self-management skills prior to taking the course. I had read some papers on mindfulness and the carers of people with dementia, which showed very positive results.  Passing mindfulness on to staff, and the families who come to visit them would be very beneficial.  It is very challenging for the families of our service users. There can be a lot of grieving, as families have often lost their loved ones whilst they are still alive in many ways.  It is tough for them.  Service users can sometimes be a little verbally and physically aggressive, and seeing this may shock their loved ones, who might also see deterioration each time they come to visit.

What new skills have you learnt?

The course has taught me that there is growing support for mindfulness, from well-known role models as well as psychological health professionals.  I wondered if we would get enough information to write a decent paper at the start, but there is a plethora of research evidence and case studies about how lives have been changed through mindfulness practice.

Within the company, we were right to choose mindfulness to alter the way we look at things and use it as a tool throughout the company.

When I walk with my children now I really look at things with them.  When we find a flower we stop and really see it, taking in the colour, the silence around us.  It is very therapeutic and clears your mind.

If everyone did that once a day, it would make such a difference.  I sat in my car before a six-hour CSSIW inspection which is very stressful and I am mentally tired at the end of it.  I use the time to take a mindful minute and ground myself before it starts.  I also take a mindful minute when I clean my teeth in the morning, taking the time to focus on what I am doing before I start thinking about the working day ahead.  I walk downstairs with a clear head.

There is no doubt that everyone who completed the course wants to bring it into the company.  These will form a group of Champions going forward.  From March, one of this group will become a Clinical Tutor, responsible for training.  Mindfulness has already become part of some induction training; now it is a perfect opportunity to bring it in beyond the induction period.  There were some cynics at the start, but the module changed the way they think about it, and they can now see the benefits.

What has it been like studying at university and still working a full time job?

I have needed the help of Mindfulness many times whilst studying and working as well.  You have to be committed to the course, as you cannot do any coursework during the day.  It is all going to be in your own time due to the demands of the job, even if your employer has committed to helping you.  I have also completed a BSc in violence reduction in the workplace, with all assignments done in my own time.

Have you noticed any changes related to your work since starting the course? 

In my work, I can take a step back in the clinical area, a ‘metacognitive pause’, which is part of the mindfulness practice.  It alters the way I respond, and even though I am always professional in my behavior it adds value to the way I make decisions.  It gives me a chance to reflect, especially in a challenging situation, and perhaps take a different or more skilful route as a result. 

What are your aspirations once you have completed the course? 

The course is now completed and I continue to use mindfulness as part of my practice.  Academically, I am considering converting my degree to an Honours award.  You never stop learning in Fieldbay, and I enjoy this despite the obvious challenges.

In terms of the company, since the Mindfulness course we have employed a Service User ‘Champion’, who works with the families.  As her role expands, the intention is to implement family support groups, into which we will incorporate mindfulness practice.  We believe that mindfulness can bring great value and support to the families of our service users.

How useful was the funding available to come on the course and why?

The funding has been crucial to us as a company in terms of undertaking this module.  We want our people to study, to educate themselves, and to learn.  Without the funding, we could not do it to the extent that we do.  With the mindfulness module, the number of people signing up tells us so much about the level of interest in this area, and we would never have been able to facilitate this without funding.  Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is part of our role, and there is a legal responsibility to do this.  The funding has enabled us to explore other areas of learning that add value to the business.

General conclusion re Mindfulness module

The mindfulness module has been interesting and beneficial, and we have continued to think of other benefits it could bring to everyone – the families, the service users, and the staff.  It has expanded our thinking, and without this opportunity the company would perhaps never have thought of it, or embraced it to the extent we have.