Last year we launched our buddy service with thanks to The Laura Hyde Foundation for giving us some funding for our pilot. You can read more about this here.
We knew it would go well but are thrilled at just how well it has gone, so much so that we have now secured our next year’s funding.
To date, our 13 buddies have supported 38 registrants, all from different specialities – mental healthcare, midwifery, paediatrics, ITU and more. Each buddy has attended a selection day where they are given different scenarios and assessed on their suitability for the role. If all three of the assessors feel they show the potential to make a suitable buddy then they will go on to receive 1-2 days of full training on all aspects of being a buddy. This includes the expectations of the role, limits of the role, handling difficult conversations, managing conflict and coaching to address misconduct. We also include discussions around safeguarding and how to escalate if registrants exhibit that they need more robust mental health support.
The role of the buddy is shown more here.
We recognise that everyone has a different and unique response to being referred to the NMC, their circumstances which led to referral may vary and the issues they have been referred for can be complex. The philosophy of NMCWatch is that we make no judgements about their case, we try to support everyone as long as they show a willingness to learn, reflect and move forward positively.
During the pilot, we learnt that some of the people joining our group will not be ready for this work. Our admins contact each new member asking them if they wish to join the buddy program and certainly everyone receiving advocacy has to be allocated a buddy as part of this work. However, some find they are not in the space to be able to begin that work, which is absolutely fine. We gently keep in touch, support them on our Facebook group and help them move towards a time when they can benefit from this work.
Previously this work has been done by one or two key members of the group voluntarily but it became apparent that this requires a lot of inner resources and a lot of time. We therefore, through this funding are able to offer a small honorarium payment to the buddies for each session they hold to thank them for their time. Some of the buddies have had severe financial hardship during their own FtP experience and whilst the honorarium won’t make anyone rich it gives them a little thank you for their commitment. Having said that, the nature of our buddies is that most of them gift this money back to the fundraising pot to assist other members who need it. For others, undertaking the role of the buddy has added benefits. For those who are not working, it is a great way of doing “work” in a safe way and also giving something back after the support they have received.
During the pilot, we found recruitment of buddies can be tricky. Nearly all our buddies have had a no case to answer which we found interesting. We feel this is probably due to the residual trauma caused by long cases that ultimately reach a hearing. Once the case is finished they need to concentrate on rebuilding and recovering as well as trying to get their career back on track. Understandably many feel they want to put the “NMC behind them”. We also found that some of those we recruited initially could not continue as it was too triggering for them. We are trying to address this, and by having monthly debriefs with the buddies, we hope that will go some way towards minimising this. With our next year funded we, at the buddy’s request, have funded for each of them to undertake the “Mental Health First Aid” course. We are also able to fund the design of training materials and online modules that the registrants being supported can undertake in order to gain the necessary insight into their case and what the NMC require to be satisfied they no longer pose a risk to the public.
Sadly on rare occasions, we have had to remove people permanently from the buddy program or the wider support group. This is never an easy decision and is never a one-person decision. We will meet collectively with our safeguarding lead and discuss strategies to try to resolve this – sometimes it will just need a different buddy to be allocated for example. On the rare occasion we have had to remove someone it is usually because we feel being part of the group is worsening a pre-existing mental health issue and that we can signpost them to other organisations that are better equipped to support them. We are hoping this is the group that we can work with more now we are in partnership with Laura Hyde to see what different approaches we can use.
We are extremely proud of this work, it is fundamentally what we were set up for – those who have gone through process, supporting those going through it. No matter what the reason for referral to the NMC, whether someone is denying or accepting allegations, whether someone lacks insight or refuses to remediate, we believe every nurse, midwife or nursing associate deserves to be given a chance to address why they are there. We believe that this is only possible by having direct coaching from those who have lived experience of it.
If you haven’t been there you can not understand why we are floored when referred as our profession is often our identity. If you haven’t been there you can not understand the shame associated with being referred and the fear of telling anyone that you have been – including your own family. If you haven’t been there you can not understand how at times you may feel, the world would be better off without you. AND if you haven’t been there you can never truly understand how someone else who is going through it right now really feels.
One step at a time
Together we are stronger
Nothing is ever that bad
If it’s time to walk away – we will hold your hand whilst you do so.