New Scottish Care Blog: Elaine McCourtney
I would like to discuss a subject which I find deeply fascinating and intriguing, but more importantly, it’s one which really matters to me: how we can make a difference in an individuals’ life through good conversations.
It is crucial, I believe, that I deliver in my role, and try to make a difference for everyone I come into contact with, regardless of the reason that brings us together. They could be my managers, my colleagues, the care and support staff and other professionals, the individuals we provide care and support for, or indeed, my family and friends. We are all individuals who deserve to be treated as the independent, fascinating people we are.
Dare I say it, but let’s forget the National Care Standards for just a moment. I, like many others brought up in the 1970’s and 80’s, understood and shared the positive, ‘old-fashioned’ values of being respectful, keeping true to your morals, demonstrating self-discipline, keeping a firm determination, and thinking of others and not just oneself. The National Care Standards Principles very much mirror these values. They propagate the ability to empathise with respect. It promotes a compassionate dignity and a responsiveness to need. Many of us already commend and admire these principles in our private lives, as we know the true value they hold in our relationships and in communication with others. So why then, in our working lives, do we need a manual to sanctify what should be so self-obviously apparent?
When we step back from our subjective view, we may even notice that as a society, we show tremendous exertion in obtaining personal rights and liberties, whilst all too often neglecting the responsibilities that these entail. This is a sad indictment, but one that I come across all too often. Within health and social care, this tendency is continuously impacting our roles. Some individuals are resolute in acquiring their rightful due, whilst disregarding the duty they have to themselves and others in our workforce.
Personal Outcomes are at the heart of the Scottish Government’s policy and, if used effectively, should go some way to reverse a dependency culture that is manifest, and re-instate a positive value and focus on responsibility and resilience. With a quick change of perception, and a touch of empowerment, we can change the recipe; we can build a model of a responsible society.
We all know why we have to change. In addition to the values and principles I have mentioned, our demographics are changing. Our population is getting older; there are more illnesses and multi- morbidity. This is set against the backdrop of decreasing financial resources, cuts in services, and lower funding in many other vital public sector bodies.
When I was first employed in my role with Social Care Services, I used to wonder how I would interpret someone’s ‘personal outcomes’ after a brief introduction. We really have to understand that individual, and what matters most to them, in a short space of time. The same is true when inducting a new member of staff, too. Whether you are supervising a team or mentoring a specific colleague, you are aware that what matters to them and what impacts them will also impact yourself.
What I have learned over the years, throughout my various experiences, is that a good conversation can inform us of an individual’s outcomes. After the initial greeting, once the pleasantries are over, we can then begin to connect. However, conversing is a skill some of us are better at than others. Our purpose – why we need this information – will motivate and direct the progression of holding a meaningful good conversation with someone. If it is an individual we have not seen for a while, we may ask them what they have been doing; to catch up with them. If it is someone we are in regular contact with, we might chat about a specific topic from a previous conversation. If we are sharing instructional learning we should have the specific training and skills to do this effectively, for different learning styles.
So, what is a Good Conversation? It is a process, with applied techniques and skills, for the facilitator to use while with an individual. The techniques support an individual to share their issues, investigate their opportunities, make use of their abilities and strengths, and display resilience, in order to achieve what is important to them. These methods include listening skills, with deeper listening, various types of exploratory questioning, asset mapping, and measuring what is important to them; scaling/scoring how they can to improve on this.
Good conversation skills and techniques are so vitally essential to empowering change in resilience in the lives of the individual’s support. Still maintaining their personal rights but shifting more towards their personal outcomes. I am a campaigner at Good Conversations training courses that the same skills and techniques can also positively impact on the resilience of our staff teams. How do we change society as a whole? Well, we are making the first ripples and that is important to me.
Scottish Care Liaison Officer, Dumfries & Galloway