A Blessed Journey To 45

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Having celebrated my 44th birthday in lockdown last year, when life seemed so obscure and most people were living in fear, I chose to be hopeful that my journey to 45 was going to be meaningful regardless of what the world was going through. This is not to say that the journey between 44 and 45 was without challenges, but things could have definitely been worse. So, I remain grateful for what was, what is and what may be.

This morning, I woke up to the sight of one of my greatest blessings in life. He was stood by our bedroom door having just come back from the kitchen to get a glass of water. He talked gibberish (which he sometimes do to amuse me). We both giggled and whilst he cosied up back into bed, I said I was getting up. It was only 6am and already, I was wide awake. Perhaps I was excited to turn 45 today, or probably because I was thinking of the errands that I needed to do. Then I was reminded of the message that my staff sent me yesterday, "promise me boss, you will rest". And so I changed my mindset and put on my running shoes instead. As soon as I took my first stride, thoughts came rushing in. My pace was slow, but my mind was racing. I reflected on the past year and how I got here safely, at 45. A lot of things have happened to me personally in the last year, both good and bad.

I started reflecting on my relationship with J. We've been together for seven years now, and although things are not perfect, I can say that we are blessed to have each other. Our relationship grew stronger during this pandemic and to be honest, I couldn't imagine myself being in quarantine with anyone else but him. He was my dose of diazepam when my anxiety creeped in. He was my voice of reason when emotions took over me. He was (and still is) my constant reminder that life could always be worse, and that I am blessed to have everything that I need in life right now. And despite the fact that we haven't been anywhere in the last 16 months, we have been enjoying each other's company in the comfort of our home.

My pace was steady. At 06:20 per kilometre, I felt comfortable. I ran towards Buckingham Palace. It was very quiet at 08:00. The sky above the palace was clear blue, no single cloud in sight. As I turned left to Horse Guards Road, I reflected on my parents. I was reminded of that day when my mother fell. I was on the phone to her. She rushed to pick up the phone but stepped on a stone and lost her balance. She managed to answer the phone, but she was already on the ground. She has not been able to walk since. My father on the other hand was reasonably okay until about three months ago when his Diabetes became severely uncontrolled, affecting his eyesight, his legs and his kidneys. And only last month, I had the worst fear of the year when he suddenly taken ill and was hospitalised for the first time in his life at 75. Thank God, he is at home now recovering well and almost back to his old self. Despite their current medical condition, I remain blessed because they are both alive and fighting. And if I had one wish for my birthday, it is to go home to my parents as soon as it is possible.

I decided to run past Trafalgar Square to check the pre-EU finals preparation. There was police presence and staff were busy putting more barricades in place. I ran towards Covent Garden, then reflected on work. It's been seven months since I left my first pandemic job and since I started my second. Two very different experiences, but it's safe to say that I am in a much better place now. Imperfect, but my team is perfect for me. This is despite the fact that there are  a few people who are quite challenging to manage. I am very blessed to have my team because above anything else, they are good people- and I guess this is the reason why we are successful as a team.  So, I can confidently say that despite the pandemic, I remain blessed because I was able to find a job that reasonably works for me, and also a short walking distance from home.

When I got home from my morning run, I took a moment to reflect on my health and J's. I was reminded of that time early this year when we both had COVID-19. We were lucky as we both had mild symptoms, but with Covid, any symptom can be quite worrying because it can progress quite quickly. We both recovered well from this and thank God, we haven't had any health issues since then.

My reflection was interrupted by a buzzer. It was a box of beautiful flowers from one of my former staff. The flowers came with a lovely note, followed by a text message that said, "You deserve more". Such a heartwarming gesture from someone that I've only worked with for seven months.

Then it was time to check my messages, and I felt so touched and humbled by the number of private messages I received from friends and family. These are the constant people who never forget to greet me on my birthday year after year. And for this, I am beyond grateful.

Today, I celebrate the blessings that I have received in the last year, big and small. And I am blessed to have been able to celebrate my birthday virtually with my family.  It was reassuring to see my mother at the dinner table for the first time in a long time, and my father in his usual grumpy self.

It was of course a real pleasure to have spent my birthday all day at home with J, catching up with family and friends and watching The Championships

At 45, I am blessed not because of my material possessions and my achievements, but because despite sadly losing a loved-one last year, all our family and friends are otherwise alive and well. Besides, I have a job that I am fairly happy with, and I have people around who care about me. And I guess during this time, this is all that matters.

So here I am, watching the Euro Finals hoping that England wins, so I can say that my 45th birthday is historical because England won after 55 years! 😆


What Leadership (in Healthcare) Means To Me During The Pandemic

Sunday, 30 May 2021

It's almost six months since I started my new role as a Ward Manager- my third managerial role in 3 years. Yes, so unlikely of me to change jobs this often, however circumstances compelled me to do so. Unfortunately, I was made redundant from the job that built my foundation as a manager in March last year, then difference in values made me quit the next job after that. But here I am now, finally settled in a place where I can say I am happy. 

I remember going for my interview amidst the second lockdown. I was asked to present on "How to Ensure the Right People with the Right Skills are in the Right Place". I really wanted to get this job, so I worked really hard for it although I was only given a few days to prepare. But you know what, I had a very good feeling about this job because every conversation I had with HR was positive. When I submitted  my presentation, she called me and said that the panel has seen my presentation and that they were impressed and couldn't wait to meet me. Apparently, I have answered all their questions through my presentation - exactly my aim whenever I am asked to present during interviews.

So, I decided to share bits of my presentation here because I have been reflecting on my experience in the last six months and realised that although I had a very challenging start, I believe that I have made a real difference as a leader as early as the first 3 months into my role. This was only possible because I have a good bunch of genuinely good people supporting me. The moment I finally built my own team was the moment things started to change positively. As a ward and as a team, we have received very positive feedbacks from our colleagues from other departments as well as from our patients. As a leader, my staff rated me 100% in the recent ward accreditation review. I know I am not perfect, but every positive feedback that I receive from my staff and my other colleagues on my leadership motivates me to do better as a leader. All this because I believe that I have the "Right People with the Right Skills in the Right Place".😉

One of the many things that I learned during this pandemic is stated in a quote by James Lane Allen, "Crisis does not build character. It reveals it." This resonates more so now that there is (still) a pandemic because the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we act and behave as individuals. It has massively impacted our healthcare system, too. And it is in these trying times that the true character of people is revealed.

In this current environment where people are constantly challenged, where risks are high and people are living in constant  fear and uncertainty, we need people who are able to adapt quickly and efficiently, therefore the more we need the right people with the right skills to be in the right place. So....

Right People

When I talk about the Right People, what do I exactly mean? For me, it all starts at recruitment and selection. During interviews, I specifically look for only three things: 
- The Right Qualification.
- The Right Attitude which for me, is the most important thing in the whole recruitment process. The right person with the right attitude should be able to demonstrate compassion, kindness and a caring attitude in their experience and intentions in applying for the role, as well as how well they respond to scenario questions during the interview.
- The Right Experience which is not always necessarily within the speciality but the right person should be able to demonstrate the ability to provide a safe and high standards of nursing care.

Right Skills

The right people will bring in their own skills, however to have the right skills, as a leader, I must empower then to communicate and identify the skills they posses and need to develop, the decisions they have to make, and allow them to be autonomous in performing their tasks. One good example I have for this was when I empowered and developed a junior staff who lacked self-confidence but showing a lot of potential to take on an Infection Control Lead role.

In addition to this, I motivate staff by maintaining open communication and infusing optimism in them. In my first managerial role, I implemented an award for staff of the month as a way of recognising the staff for the difference that they have made to the patients, displaying positive behaviour and going the extra mile for a patient, colleague or a member of the public.

I have always believed that empowered and motivated staff provide the safest and highest standard of care to patients.😊

I am also an advocate for staff development. I actively mentor and assess staff, supporting them in their training and development needs. As a manager, I facilitate annual appraisals, organise ward meetings and facilitate ward teachings. I also encourage staff to seek continuous improvements by encouraging them to attend trainings and take on extended roles such as link roles and participation in audits.

Right Place

I believe that the right place is nurturing and has a robust leadership and management. As a leader (first) and a manager (second), I deliver the best quality of evidence-based care to patients with integrity and always maintaining patient's dignity and privacy. Above all, I always prioritise patient safety. 

As a clinical leader, I am a pivotal source of information and of clinical expertise. As a previous Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner, I have the ability to perform practical procedures and perform skilled assessment to patients.

In order to gain trust and respect from staff and patients, I believe that authenticity is the key. In addition to this, my team and my ward are a reflection of my leadership, therefore I have to be transparent even in times of failure, and hold strong moral principles.

Also, through my lengthy tenure as a nurse, I have developed confidence and initiative in communicating with other multi-disciplinary teams to ensure patient care is optimal during their hospital stay.

Resiliency is one of my greatest strengths as I believe that I need to be tough to be an effective leader.

It is also important for me to be sensitive to other people's emotions and concerns, and putting myself in other people's shoes. I am more understanding of staff with childcare issues, disabilities or illnesses. Personal reflection is also essential for my personal and professional improvement.

As a clinical leader, I have the ability to rise above challenges. Especially in this current environment, I have to ensure that I boost the staff morale and performance by showing that I care.


The Untold and Unheard Feelings

Monday, 19 April 2021

I have been extra emotional lately due to a few things that have been bothering me, mainly about my mother. It has been rather difficult for me to share any of my feelings to anyone because I know that no one will ever understand how I feel. So why am I here, you may ask? The simple answer is because no one is obliged to listen to me and understand me when I write. So, please allow me.

Firstly, I feel guilty that I didn't make an effort to go home to my parents in the past six years. And with the virus still raging (especially in the Philippines), I am unsure when I will be able to go home safely. It is very hard because I know that my mother is not very well, and all I want is to see her and hug her one more time. I didn't go home for six years because I was selfish. The only time I decided to prioritise myself because I finally realised that I've given so much to others and so little to myself, was the time fate played its trick on me. I would blame it to the circumstances, but still, I should have tried harder. 

Then the most unexpected thing happened early last year. My mother was diagnosed with a medical condition that is rather dangerous. As soon as I found out about this, I made plans to go home that April, but then coronavirus came. I have been speaking to her most days, if not everyday since then. I want to make up for the days I lost in not going home to see them- and this is the only way I know how. I felt very guilty and even guiltier when she had an accident in October last year which limited her mobility. 

I know my mother is suffering physically and emotionally, but she is trying her best because I know she still wants to see me. It breaks my heart every time I speak to her on the phone. I avoid video calls as much as possible because I don't want to see her in bed. I don't want to see her that way. 

You see, my mother is far from perfect. She has said things that hurt me and other people. She says things that make her sound ungrateful, but I know she just can't express herself that well. No one, not even herself expected this to happen to her. Her health was obviously declining, but we didn't anticipate her to be in this situation. And knowing my mother, this is very hard for her. Hence, her defence is to give in to the situation and (very reluctantly) accept that she is not going to walk again. My mother is not normally a negative person. She instilled positivity in me since childhood, no matter how difficult life was for us back then, so it is quite painful for me to listen to her utter words that only mean weakness. That's why whenever she tells me that she has accepted  her fate and that she is now going to be like this until she dies, it hurts me. My mother is one of the strongest people I know and it breaks my heart to hear her speak like there is no hope left for her. 

My mother without a doubt is showing signs of depression. It is not easy for an independent and sociable person to suddenly be confined in a room on her own majority of the time. She is feeling sorry for herself, and I can hear and feel her sinking deep into self-pity. She feels helpless and hopeless. So hopeless that she is even willing to sacrifice her own comfort, because she feels bad that other people are having to care for her. But has she got a choice? No. I know my mother would rather look after herself -if only she could. 

And here I am, thousands of miles away from home, looking after other people when I cannot even look after my parents, especially my mother. Every time I hold a patient's hand to reassure them that everything is going to be alright, my heart sinks. I always wish that it is my mother's hand that I am holding, and it is my mother that I am saying those reassuring words to. Lately, my morning rounds have become sort of a torture. My staff would address complaints to me and whenever I speak to a patient about their complaints, I think of my mother. I spend time listening to patients complain about little things- how I wish I can do that with my mother, too - in person, so that I can hold her hand and reassure her that I will do my  best to make things right. Being a manager has helped me gain a better understanding as to why some patients complain- because they are not in control. And my mother is definitely not in control of her life and her health at the moment, and this is why she expresses herself so negatively sometimes. My mother is not a bad person. I know there are worse people out there. In fact, when my mother was able, she helped a lot of people. Kind of made me realise that when you are no longer able and are the one in need of help, there will only be a handful of people who will genuinely pay it back to you. Not that you're asking for anything in return, but reciprocity should be given.

Honestly, this is very hard on my part. God knows that if given the choice, I would rather go home and look after my own mother. I feel guilty that I am not there for her when she needs me the most. I know my mother feels that she is alone, but she is not because she has me even if I am not physically with her. There is nothing worse in life than being surrounded by people and yet you feel lonely. Sadly, this is my mother's truth. She may not say it, but I know. She is my mother. She brought me into this world. 

It's really difficult for me to express exactly how I feel, because all there is is guilt. I have never felt so guilty in my life before. I know I have been mumbling throughout this blog, but my emotions are all over the place right now. So please forgive me if you're reading this and it doesn't make sense to you. Ultimately, there is only one thing that I am hoping and praying for- to hold my mother's hand once more.

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