The turning of a new year prompted a certain amount of reflection about how the past year had been and wow what a year 2021 was for me at Bridges.
For anybody that doesn’t know me, one of my roles at Bridges is to deliver a lived experience perspective in our workshops for healthcare staff. Prior to Covid-19 this would involve me travelling all over the country, often at very unsociable hours, to deliver our sessions in person. As someone who is blind, I really took for granted how much I relied on people’s nonverbal communication to gauge the room and do my job well. You could hear the murmurs of agreement, the fidgeting in seats when it was time to move to a break and the scratching of heads when an idea hadn’t quite hit home.
Fast forward to January 2021, Bridges had spent the best part of 7 months transitioning our in-person delivery model to online and I was raring to get going. But after my first couple of sessions, I realized something terrible had happened… all of the coping strategies that I’d developed to deliver in-person workshops no longer applied to online workshops and I was starved of any kind of real time feedback. Usually in a session I would have shared an anecdote and been greeted with audible tones of agreement if it was a good one, or silence if it didn’t connect with my audience. In the new world of Zoom where everyone is muted all the time it felt to me like I wasn’t hitting the mark, even though my co-facilitator would assure me afterwards that people were nodding, smiling and engaging with my stories. Another new challenge was the change in interplay between me and my fellow co-facilitator. In the in-person world I’m able to lean forward and take in a breath to let them know when I’d like to interject with a relevant point but in the world of a grid of tiny squares and a shared presentation this approach no longer works.
These are just a couple of examples of the real levels of uncertainty I felt at the beginning of last year. The job that I’d previously loved so much had changed overnight without me having a say in any of it. The fear this caused in me was huge. As I reflect on this time now, I can draw so many parallels with when I suffered my stroke in 2007. I’ve realised now the way I’ve dealt with this challenge is in exactly the same way I dealt with my stroke then…
One step at a time…
What have I done? Well firstly I have spent time thinking about the changes to my role and what I want to achieve and tried to work out a different way of getting there. I now always encourage my co-facilitator to have their mic off mute whenever I’m giving an anecdote so they can give those all-important non-verbal cues to let me know if I’m on the right track. Secondly I now encourage people to write in the chat box when I’m speaking so that I can get their written feedback in real-time. On the point of knowing when I can interject it’s all about the preparation. Before every session, I meet with my co-facilitator to discuss in advance the points I’d like to make and discussions to come in on. Finally, as with any working relationship the more we get to know each other the more my co-facilitator can refer to me for a story that I might have told in a previous session.
So, on reflection 2021 was a really scary year for me professionally. It caused me to question whether or not I could still do or even still wanted to do the job I loved. As with my stroke journey I’ve learnt a huge amount about myself and have grown my skillset considerably which I’m immensely proud of. As a result of these continued challenges and successes I have vowed to push myself out of my comfort zone a little more often and not just wait for a major life changing event to thrust the change upon me.
My advice to anyone else finding themselves in a similar situation… is to take a deep breath, take another deep breath, identify where you are, where you would like to get to and then the steps you need to take. And working with Bridges its always about the small steps anyway.
As a team we share the same ethos and philosophy that drives our passion to create the best experience and environment for patients to live well. Bridges provide opportunities for both patients and professionals to work collaboratively to enhance self-management skills, knowledge and confidence.
You can reach us by email firstname.lastname@example.org