A remarkable lady
We set up the charity, Kissing it Better, as a one-stop-shop or suggestion box for simple, good ideas that had made the world of difference to a patient or carer. Free to use, we hoped the wonderful selection of thoughts and innovations, trawled from around the world, would be used by everyone who needed care or who delivered it.
But, although the easy-to-use website quickly gained great acclaim from many very senior people from within the NHS and Government, the stark reality was that, initially, many hospital staff who loved the ideas, never seemed to have the time to put them into practice.
The turning point came when we created the Walsall Case Study which demonstrated how, through engagement with the most dynamic groups within a hospital's, or Care Homes, catchment area, it was possible to supply enough manpower and enthusiasm to help lift the energy of staff . This, in turn, helped to drive these simple initiatives through.
But the Walsall Case Study only happened because we had been inspired by a truly inspirational nurse.
A year before our visit to Walsall, we had visited Aintree Hospital where Terry Owen MBE was the Volunteer Manager. With massive experience of running A&E at the hospital as a senior sister, in 2001, she changed roles and over the next few years developed a phenomenal volunteer department.
. By the time she left in April 2012, she had
- increased the volunteers from 20 in 1997 to over 800 in 2012
- 759 volunteers had go on to work as nursesin the hospital
- 474 had jobs within the hospital
- through offering accreditation to the many disabled volunteers who completed so many hours as highy valued memebers of her team, she helped many of the 147 who went on to gain employment
- every year 520 pupils from 102 Merseyside schools gain work experience
The volunteers never replace a paid job. They simply add extra care and compassion by assisting patients, relatives, nursing staff and fellow volunteers.
Aintree Volunteers Service also acts as a fundraiser and umbrella for 'Weight Matters' which supports diabetic research at Aintree Hospital..
Co-founder, Nicola Matthews and I spent 24 hours at the hospital and saw, at first hand, how Terry's extraordinary care of her volunteers inspired every single person we met. It was Nurses Day and we were invited to see how Terry had not simply organised for the day staff to be acknowledged by offering them simple gifts and pampering by trained members of her team, but also how she had organised for some of her volunteer team to come in overnight so that the night staff did not miss out. My abiding memory of my time at the hospital was having breakfast in the canteen alongside volunteers who had been with us at 2.30 in the morning but still came in for 9.00 to volunteer again.
So what was it that created such a commited team? Undoubtedly, it was the strong, hugely compassionate and fun leadership from Terry.
Never, in my entire life, had I felt so moved to come away and try and make that same difference elsewhere.
Many people have visited Terry over the years and seen the Aintree Model in action. But, we believe, it can only be replicated if someone, or a team of people, within a hospital's catchment area, share Terry's energy and vision
By engaging the community in the way we do, Kissing it Better's model is slightly different. But, it would never have happened without Terry's inspiration. We saw that it was her extraordinary energy, knowledge and leadership that made it work so well.
Our aim with Kissing it Better is to seek out those people across the UK, and in time, across the world, who share that passion. Often it comes from those who have witnessed devastatingly poor care delivered either to themselves or their loved ones. Iniitially it creates understandable anger but, for some, that anger can be changed into positive energy.
When that happens, it can be enormously powerful and brings about extraordiinary change for the better.
We salute Terry Owen for giving us the opportunity to see how truly intelligent, compassionate, energetic and inspiriational leadership can make a difference to the lives of patients, relatives, hospital staff and the volunteers who give their time so freely. And, although she is has now retired, we thank her for making time to continue to give us support in so many ways.