Why laughter can be the best medicine

Star of Geordie Hospital, Sean Marshall-Kellie, talks about the importance of staff wellbeing and why laughter can be the best medicine

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Episode Three of Geordie Hospital sees clinical nurse specialist in stone disease Sean Marshall-Kellie, talking about staff wellbeing in the NHS.

He highlights how important it is to take a bit of time away from the stresses of work to take care of our own physical and mental health and our colleagues. One way he does this is through their regular Pilates classes.

“I started doing the Pilates sessions because I was keen to boost morale in the team during Covid and get everyone together to do something for themselves,” he said.

“It’s no secret that NHS staff up and down the country are incredibly busy and consequently exhausted – Covid has certainly taken its toll on us all.  However, I do think that one of the most important things that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted has been that the physical and emotional wellbeing of health and care staff, must be a priority. 

“That’s why I started to look at ways of helping to support both my own wellbeing and also that of my colleagues. There are already a number of wellbeing initiatives on offer at Newcastle Hospitals, particularly as part of our Flourish programme.  I really believe that everyone has a role to play in our own health and wellbeing so I wanted to do something that was specific for my own team, which did take a bit of time to organise – but it was so worth it!

“My main aim was to do an activity that was fun and would bring us together. I’d heard that one of our Physiotherapists ran Pilates sessions for her team and thought they sounded great – so started looking into Pilates and learning some of the moves.  Now everyone who takes part tells me that the best thing about the sessions is how much we all laugh! It feels so healthy to just smile, connect and have some fun, even for just a short time.  The Pilates itself has obvious physical benefits, but if I’m honest I think the biggest thing we all get from it is a boost to our mental health.  We all just have a giggle – and there is no better medicine in my opinion than a laugh with others.

“The sessions have proven to be so popular with staff that we even have a few people regularly attending from other departments nearby, like radiology.  I’ve also started thinking about other things we could organise as a team – from simply inviting people for a coffee for five minutes, to a lunchtime quiz, to 20 min HITT sessions.

“I know it is so hard for colleagues to find time for this – as it may feel like it’s just something nice to do. However, I think that it should be a priority – just five minutes out of your day for the benefit of your physical or mental wellbeing is so important. 

“People are our biggest asset in the NHS – without dedicated staff and the wide range of skills they bring, the NHS simply would not exist. The safe and compassionate care that we offer is only possible if we are physically and emotionally healthy. We need to look after ourselves and each other and make wellbeing part of our everyday lives. It isn’t an added extra – it should be an important part of all of our days. 

“I’d really encourage others to take a bit of time and think about what they could do to bring colleagues together and just chat, laugh and lighten that load, even for just a short time.”