Looking After Your Team Case Study: Katie – Health and Wellbeing Coach

Role and Context

Katie is a health and wellbeing coach for four GP practices in her local PCN. She started her role early in 2021, just when the pandemic was in the height of the second wave. This is a newly created role for the area and the aim of the health and wellbeing coach is to work alongside social prescribers, nurses and the GP practices in which they are based. 

As the role is very new, Katie felt it was important to build relationships with the doctors and staff she would be working alongside, as well as adjusting to working across four different surgeries to promote her newly developed role. The aim of the role is to help patients to manage their long-term conditions in a holistic manner, engaging different lifestyle elements that could improve and empower patients to take control of their condition and their overall health and wellbeing. 

Challenge of Covid-19 on the team

Katie started her role during the pandemic and decided to base herself in the workplace so that she could get to know the teams she would be working with. She also believed that the social interactions with staff would be positive for her own wellbeing. However, due to the nature of the pandemic restrictions, this was not always as easy as first expected.

“With the nature of this being a new role, there was obviously a lot of trying to educate people what the role was about, which was quite difficult when everyone’s doors were shut. That was a really big challenge – how did I make myself both seen and heard? I was trying to navigate myself through the pandemic sensibly and follow the social distancing rules, but it would have been a lot easier if that element had been taken away.”

All four practices were also very busy with patient load, and so Katie tried to help where she could during her induction. She noticed that the four practices had their own cultures and different ways of working which also meant Katie had to adapt her working and communication style, while attempting to explain to clinicians the importance of her work. 

“It is like working at four different businesses in all honesty, they have their different quirks and different ways of communicating, so I have had to be open-mined and fluid.”

How accessing the Looking After Your Team coaching helped

One of the main challenges that Katie was facing was how to embed herself into the various teams she was working alongside, and how to promote the importance of her role. The other was about being able to set boundaries and not ‘take the work home’ at the end of the day. 

“I was starting to feel a little lost and not knowing where to go to as I settled into the role, and I just thought that the coaching would be beneficial to help me.”

Katie discussed how the coach helped her to navigate conversations with other practice staff, especially when there was a perception that their roles overlapped, and how to re-assure staff that their roles were different and could complement each other. 

The coach suggested different practical ways this could be done, for example using face-to-face meetings, joining staff meetings, explaining why the role was of benefit to patients and creating posters about the service. As some team members were harder to reach it was suggested that Katie look in diaries for when there was a suitable time to approach staff and begin an e-mail dialogue before a meeting. The coach also discussed joining a network of other health and wellbeing coaches so that Katie could share and pick up tips and techniques about integrating her role into GP practices.

The coach also provided techniques to help with time and calendar management and offered advice about boundary-setting. As this was a lone role Katie felt that she struggled to turn off at the end of the day as this was having an emotional impact on her. 

The coach recommended putting in ‘buffer zones’ to try and switch off during the day and take some time to decompress, especially after a difficult clinical session with a patient. Another recommendation was also to ask for some clinical supervision within the practices she worked, so Katie had someone else in the team they could approach.

“The coach suggested that I should explore getting the clinical supervision that I need, highlighting that this would be an important element of team support, and that I really needed to move forward with this.”

Team impact of the coaching

As a result of the coaching Katie reported that she had seen the health and wellbeing service evolve within the practices, and that referrals to the service had been increasing (so much so, there were discussions to bring in another member of staff). She noted that it did take time to fully explain the role, but the coaching she received through Looking After Your Team helped her gain the confidence to approach and speak to team members in different ways and had been really beneficial.

“I have definitely seen the service evolve as team members have grasped the concept, and the referrals that I have received have reflected that… different people in different surgeries grasped that concept differently… being as proactive as possible to explain to them the role and the benefits to patients has really helped.”

The coaching also helped Katie maintain her own wellbeing, so she could protect herself in her role and still be a valuable team member. She now feels that she is part of the ‘team jigsaw’, and the role has become more settled within the GP practices in which she works.

“This has helped with my communication, and helped with my own wellbeing… I feel a lot more self-aware… the coaching was valuable because I had that space and person to talk to, and I really think it helped me settle into the role.”