Leading through a pandemic: Amplifying the voice of Nurses and AHPs in the BGS and beyond
It was at the BGS Autumn meeting in November 2019 where we began our leadership partnership as Chair and Deputy Chair of the BGS Nurse and Allied Health Professional (NAHP) Council. Frazer had three years under his belt working as co-Deputy Chair alongside Esther Clift, with Cliff Kilgore at the helm. Lucy had been an active contributor to the Council Committee for four years and had represented NAHPs on the BGS Policy and Communications Committee, working with Marina Mello (Communications Manager) on implementing a NAHP public relations/social media strategy. It was here that the Twitter hashtag #NurseAHPcouncil was born.
Our key manifesto pledge was informed by Lucy’s Florence Nightingale Foundation travel scholarship, which included three weeks in Scotland. Here, Lucy observed that there was little Committee engagement with our NAHP colleagues north of the border. We questioned whether this could be the same for Northern Ireland, Wales and some English regions? Our aim was to collaboratively bring our colleagues into the fold from throughout the United Kingdom. Over this last two years we have strengthened representation from far and wide to our Council, and this continues to be a priority moving forward. We do not wish to be seen as an anglocentric Council - we are keen that our Council is genuinely UK-wide and that it reflects policy priorities, education needs, clinical and research activity in all four nations.
We had lots of other ideas to increase inclusion, but in those first two committee meetings of our tenure we focused on smoothly transitioning into our roles. We were observing and learning from each other, seeking to gain insights into the inner workings of the BGS, its then new Strategic Plan, and to understand how we could best support the NAHP membership to go further than representing us on individual BGS committees.
The pandemic was taking hold in the UK in mid-March 2020 when the BGS Policy workshop was cancelled. As a Trustee, Lucy attended a Board meeting which concluded that the cancelling of the Spring Meeting was the safest option considering COVID-19. The country went into lockdown and many of us quickly adapted our roles, taking on additional clinical leadership responsibilities, secondments/redeployment, hibernated our research and quality improvement projects and got our heads round how we could continue to support our patients alongside supporting the people we lived with, as we all had to adapt to new ways of caring and new ways of working.
We all appreciated the resources the BGS team were producing at record speed to support rapidly changing healthcare delivery. There was little time for us to email one another, let alone plan how we could support our Committee and wider Council during this national emergency. We found time to pull together a blog celebrating International Nurse’s Day on what would have been Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, while many of us had planned to be in Westminster Abbey on 12 May 2020 in honour of that great nursing leader. By June 2020 when the pandemic appeared to be easing off (the first wave in hindsight) we began to look to our first peri-pandemic Committee meeting - a virtual meeting, of course. This was a really positive event, a great opportunity to meet with one another and to check in, sharing learning and of course supporting wellbeing. Here the seed was planted to write a BGS newsletter piece highlighting how BGS NAHPs had adapted to the pandemic with resilience, innovation, and tenacity. It was well received by members.
At this time we said a huge THANK YOU and farewell to the inspirational Dr Gwyn Grout, a founding member of the Council (then Nurses Special Interest Group), who was retiring as our Education and Training Committee Representative. It was a great celebration and a proud moment for Gwyn, as she had just been informed that she was being honoured with the BGS Marjory Warren Lifetime Achievement Award. Gwyn had inspired so many of us and continues to do so. We also hosted a welcome event for new Council members which left us thinking we should do more for the wider Council.
As the pandemic continued, it was apparent to us that there was a growing need to reach out further, to connect with our wider Council and offer peer support opportunities to those who worked outside strong networks supporting caring for older people. At the BGS Autumn Meeting in November 2020 we held a networking lunchtime event. We were surprised by the quietness of our nursing and AHPs’ voice. We felt we had so much to say, to share and to celebrate connected to the pivotal role our professions have continued to play during the subsequent waves of COVID-19. It was clear we needed to do more. By January 2021 we hatched a plan to introduce three Communities of Practice (CoPs) to serve our membership – Future Leaders, Advanced Practice and Research/Clinical Academics. We approached inspirational leaders, academics, and clinicians to facilitate the CoPs. We held an energising evening webinar in February to launch them and to promote and encourage more NAHPs to become involved in their BGS regional work, submitting posters, presenting their quality improvement and research projects, and stepping up into leadership roles. We will use the CoPs to support this and will measure the outputs.
We are delighted that the NAHP Council continues to grow in numbers, strength and diversity, and to contribute to the BGS’s goals and multidisciplinary ethos.
We have strengthened our connection to the NAHP Council membership via our bulletin, newsletter articles (watch this space for a special AHPs day feature), blogs and frequent tweets. As a Committee we have been developing our purpose statement to clearly articulate what we are and what we stand for. This will be circulated formally to people with details of their representative on the Committee so everyone understands what our aims are. It is with grateful thanks to our incoming Honorary Secretary, Dr Anne Hendry, for helping to guide this piece of work in the early stages via a new BGS mentorship link with Lucy.
We have thoroughly enjoyed working with each other as Chair and Deputy Chair; connecting to and serving our NAHP committee and wider Council. We are so grateful to the BGS staff team: the wonderful Jo Gough for assisting us with all our workstream activities these last two-years; Mark Stewart for supporting our quarterly meetings; Disha Rabadia for answering all of our membership queries quickly; Marina Mello and Amy Brewerton for supporting our blogs, social media activity, and newsletter and website contributions; Geraint Collingridge and the amazing events team for bringing their expertise to our webinar delivery; Sally Greenbrook for always considering the NAHP perspective in policy outputs; and of course to Sarah Mistry, BGS CEO, for giving us the green light on new initiatives, enabling us to courageously amplify the voice of nurses and AHPs within the BGS and beyond.
We look forward to supporting our friend, Esther Clift, as she takes over as new Council Chair and welcome Lynsey Dunn as Council Deputy Chair. Esther is well known to the BGS - as well as her previous NAHP committee role, she has been BGS Wessex Chair for the last two years. We are excited to have Lynsey join us, bringing a Scotland perspective to a prominent Council role. You can read Esther's manifesto here.