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Published on: 11 June 2019
If you’re staff here at Chesterfield Royal, you’ve seen the bitmoji’s , you’ve seen the bus and , you’ve probably seen the ‘real’ us dashing up and down the corridors on some sort of mission. If you’re really lucky *other words are available*, we may have commandeered you to fill in our survey to tell us what you like, and what you don’t , about what we do.
Likewise, as a patient or visitor, you’ll have doubtless read our posts, our articles, and maybe even commented on what we’ve written on social media.
But …have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a Media Advisor for the NHS? If you’re the one person reading this who possibly has, then read on … please!
It’s not just about ‘ prettyfying’ things ; ‘ I’ve done this but you’re better with words than I am’ is a common refrain ; I would start by saying that my desk currently, today, encapsulates just a flavour of what being a Communications Adviser is like … on one side sits a chart illustrating what my wee should look like in terms of hydration (a press release waiting to happen) on the other sits a fluffy penguin comforter, the lost friend of a visiting toddler and about to be returned to its owner.
Factor in the meetings about communication strategies for the varied and complex projects going on around the hospital (in my short time here I’ve learned to look at drawn up plans and nod knowingly and NOT say ooo it’ll look nice when it’s finished!), the updates on the development of Retreat at the Royal, staff engagement and the reporting on the tos and fros , celebrations and otherwise of the hospital in all its forms . As you would summise , no two days are ever the same.
It’s not all Costa and cake – some of our messages and communications can be technical and medical (Google is probably the most used thing on the internet in this office and if you do pop in you’ll often find us around a computer going ‘ewwww’ – please be assured we’re not looking at someone’s Rate your Plate pics, we are researching something medical!)
There are urgent clinical and operational messages to write and dispatch so that everyone knows what and when something is happening – although we don’t often find out until the day ourselves when someone pops their head around the office door and says ‘ Hellppppp …we need comms for this – it’s happening at 11am!’ When they said I’d have to think on my feet at interview, they meant it!
Our Head of Communications is the first port of call when something major goes wrong and local media needs a comment or reaction. This particular issue demands a cool head and calm response – even if the phone goes at 3am!
Welcome to the world of NHS Comms!
We’re a diverse bunch here, six of us in the team which is quite small compared to our peers in other places. With a wealth of experience in local journalism or the NHS we bring quite a high skill set to the table, and are constantly pushing the boundaries as technology improves. An Apple a day and all that …
We have leads for Internal and external comms , plus a digital specialist alongside a communication administrator and apprentice who are valuable members of the team , bringing their own talents and ideas to the communications strategy. They are also crash hot at organising both Christmas and Summer Fayres!
It’s a two way street , we don’t just sit in the office waiting by some dusty old phone for someone to call us – we go with the flow for sure , but chase stories too. Our job is to immerse ourselves in the life of the hospital – good and bad, and then tell you all about it (and try and make it sound interesting!) Ducklings, dogs and children are always well received but there are also a wealth of lovely (and sad) tales to tell. Our staff don’t just work 9-5, even off shift they are baking, abseiling (not at the same time), creating – all for the benefit of the patients. Patients and families too donate and fundraise for us – in gratitude for their care and support.
It’s not all about handling reporting inside the hospital walls either - we liaise with local and national media, alongside specialist publications to make sure that patients, visitors and potential staff are up to date with what we offer and what we do. We handle requests from TV programmes as they look for new places to film , and are often found in a corner cajoling *cough* one of our consultants /experts to take their turn in front of the cameras.
Days can be varied. One minute you’re working to a communications strategy for a national initiative launch (Skype conferences, loads of grids and plans to tailor to local needs), making plans to launch a new refreshed hospital charity – or called upon to help plan an end of life wedding or event … and then the phone rings! A colleague needing comms for their project and needing to be talked through what they want (or need – and they’re not always the same thing!) They may think it’s a good idea for their consultant to dress up in a mankini to illustrate the dangers of sunburn … it’s often not! Not to the Consultant anyway!
It doesn’t stop at 5pm on Friday either. Most evenings there are conference calls between the team planning or updating as emails come in. The world is 24 hours now. I even dream about charity mascots taking over the hospital wards (never eating cheese again!)
Even on bad days, full of inquest reports and difficult news , we never forget that we are privileged to do the jobs we do – that we enter the lives of people at the best of times, or the worst, and we treat everything with the same sensitivity and degree of professionalism. Everyone coming through the Royal’s doors has a story to tell by the time they leave. It’s our job to make sure it’s a good one!
Our door is always open (we’re the office that definitely isn’t HR!) and you are always welcome to pop in and volunteer ideas / ways we can do better. We don’t bite! We’re too busy eating chocolate normally!