Department of Kindness opens at Southmead maternity unit

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Kindness making
Image caption,
Staff are encouraged to drop in and take part in simple creative activities like mindful stitching or collage

A Department of Kindness has been opened at a hospital's maternity unit to help staff look after their own wellbeing and "celebrate kindness".

Ali Brown, artist in residence at Bristol's Southmead Hospital, said the creative "making" sessions were about "tricking the brain into stopping".

She said: "Taking time to slow down and taking care of your needs means you are better able to care for other people."

Midwife Kay Sutton said: "It's time away from the ward to de-stress."

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Ali Brown said: "There is so much kindness rippling out from here."

Ali Brown said the "seed of the idea" for the Department of Kindness was planted five years ago when she met a patient who said: "Kindness is everywhere. You just have to notice it."

This led to an initial project at the beginning of 2019 that involved not only staff but patients and visitors too.

She decided to base this year's project, which has been "more staff-focused", in the maternity department.

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Dozens of members of staff have taken part in the twice-weekly drop in workshops

She said: "As a health professional, you have to have a constant kindness output - but what about the kindness input?

"There's lots of documentation around burnout. Creativity seems to help people actually stop.

"And in our digital world, actually making something, it slows you down and brings you back into your body and reminds you that you're human.

"A lot of the unkindness in our world is faceless and it's 'un-human'. For example, thinking about social media, you wouldn't say something unkind if the person is in front of you."

Image caption,
Midwives Kay Sutton (l) and Jo Arkwright said it gave them "permission not to feel guilty"

Midwife Jo Arkwright said: "We see each other at meetings but this is personalised rather than problem-solving and fighting fires.

"It's a bit of timeout. You go back energised and hopefully that flows back into the team. Art - it's escapism for me."

Arts programme manager Ruth Sidgwick, from North Bristol NHS Trust, said: "One of the really important things about projects like this is they save the NHS money.

"So, if we're caring for our staff, which relieves some stress, brings them a bit of a joy and reminds them to look after themselves, it makes Southmead Hospital a better place to work.

"You could easily be cynical about this project and just dismiss it as touchy feely, whimsical, women's stuff but the next time someone is kind to you in your day, that's what you're going to remember."

The project has been funded by Southmead Hospital Charity.

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