Teesside health trust wins award for staff poetry book

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has been crowned a winner at a national award ceremony for its staff creative writing workshops which helped to reduce stress during the pandemic.

The team behind the trial ‘Creative Writing for Wellbeing’ workshop series was named the winner in the ‘Helping our Workforce to Recover from the Pandemic’ category at this year’s Bright Ideas in Health Awards.

And the workshops have even resulted in a published book – featuring moving poetry from 19 members of staff at the Trust, all about the struggles of working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The creative writing workshops were the product of a collaboration between nurse consultant in cancer and palliative care Mel McEvoy, consultant in palliative medicine Dr Donna Wakefield – both based at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust – and The Open University to establish whether poetry could reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing in healthcare workers during the pandemic.

Mel McEvoy, a published poet himself, said: “This award was won collectively and pride of place must go to all the hospital staff who engaged in the workshop and wrote about how they felt during COVID-19.

“The award recognises the importance of clinical staff’s experiences. We are all someone else’s family member before we are health professionals.

“What was captured in the writing was something we share with the patients – that we are also vulnerable in the face of challenges.”

Participants in the three-month workshop project included doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and pharmacists who all delivered care during the pandemic.

The resulting book, Creative Writing Handbook for Health Care Workers, features poetry from the staff as well as handy tips on creative writing.

Ward matron Kim Duffy is one of 19 published poets in the book. She said: “Writing and finally being able to get it all out just brought it all back to reality.

“It’s a way to communicate what you’re really feeling which is something a lot of people don’t want to do during COVID.”

After the success of the local trial workshops, staff at the Trust and The Open University are keen to expand the research out over the coming year to include multiple hospitals.

Mel McEvoy continued: “Creative writing can reveal the possibility for the beauty and resilience that lies, sometimes hidden, within this setting. What this award shows is that health care professionals recognise that staff wellbeing is an important principle in any health care setting.”

Now in its 17th year, the Bright Ideas in Health Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and teams working within the NHS, industry and academia, who have risen to the challenge of improving services provided to patients, either through a technical innovation or through better service delivery.

The winners of the 10 categories receive a cash prize and support from innovation experts at the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria to progress their ideas.

Copies of The Creative Writing Handbook for Healthcare Workers are now available in all wards at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust for both patients and staff to read.

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