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Activities – Ward Stars

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What’s sociable, recreational, physical, therapeutic and fun? Yes, ward activities!  There are so many different types of groups on offer on wards nowadays: along with the classics of problem-solving, community meetings, anxiety management, life skills and art therapies.

Juggling, balloon modelling, joke telling, food preparing, nostalgic dances, football tournaments, special theme days… Wards are now offering patients a rich assortment of individual and group activities. These provide patients with not only stimulation but also comfortable social contact, skills and interests’ development, improved self-esteem, anxiety relief – and increased safety! The National Audit on Violence cited boredom as one of the six main factors contributing to unsafe wards.

Holistic in nature, this Star is an all-rounder and it draws on the skills of multi-talented staff members like HCAs. What’s really great about running ward activities is that you can bring in your own interests and it helps keep the job varied. Groups help create a calmer ward atmosphere and give patients meaningful, engaging and recovery-supporting options.

During the week, patients vote on what films to rent to watch together on Saturday evening. But it doesn’t stop there. On the following Monday a film reviewing group is held. This is an opportunity for everyone to express their views and also say how they relate to the film’s narrative and characters.

The Activities Star is all about motivating and encouraging patients and staff to engage in constructive and purposeful daily activities whilst on the ward, supporting patients to explore ways of coping and recovering whilst promoting autonomy and independence. Of course, this means being organised, risk aware, motivated and resourceful. And so this Star reflects these HCA skills.

A big, massive, huge point about ward activities is that they not only provide opportunities for constructive involvement, but that they also turn observation (which can potentially seem somewhat detached or even obtrusive to patients) into meaningful engagement, which in itself is a rich source of important information. How better to get a real, direct understanding about how a patient is feeling than to encourage them to get involved in an activity? Ward activities give staff opportunity to make invaluable, unobtrusive, assessments and observations of patients. And so documentation and record keeping is also essential here.

The best source of help with activities is OTs. They’re magnificent in their ability to plan, deliver and evaluate sessions which are enjoyable, therapeutic and also provide the staff with invaluable perspectives on how patients are managing life, hospital and their recovery.

Imagine this

“I wouldn’t call myself an activity coordinator but I do enjoy organising special days on the ward. So far we’ve done: National Women’s’ Day, pancake day, the Royal Wedding, Comic Relief, Children in Need, World Book Day, Breast Cancer Awareness and the Olympics. It gives patients something to look forward to and everyone can get involved and have a laugh together. There’s always cake making and eating, display and poster preparing, as well as plenty of glitter and jokes along the way!” – Teri, Healthcare Support Worker

Running activities is all about being resourceful (you may have noticed that resourcefulness gets a regular mention throughout Ward Stars. That’s because HCAs are just that – resourceful!). One HCA called Mayuri collected lots of free fabric swatches from furniture shops and upholsters.  These sample books were full of all sorts of lovely patterns, colours and textures which the patients on her ward loved. Mayuri used these swatches in the art and craft group she ran, and also helped patients create personalised ‘mood boards’ by sticking various pieces of the fabric to sheets of cardboard.  That’s resourceful!

Yes, we believe (almost) anything can form the basis of a ward activity!

This Star is for the HCA who researches, leads and champions activities like health promotion or recovery groups, for example. Fundamentally, it’s about using specialist skills to develop therapeutic relationships with patients. This may involve doing further training to gain skills in order to run certain activities. “I asked if I could go to a short CBT training course the Trust was putting on,” says one HCA, “I had been wanting to learn about talking therapies for some time and saw it as an opportunity to find out more. My manager was happy for me to attend the course, even though it was advertised as a post-registration course for Staff Nurses. It felt a bit daunting but I soon found my confidence. I learned some good techniques which I often use on the ward. They especially come in handy when I help the psychologist run the problem-solving group. It’s really whet my appetite to learn more and it’s good to see patients benefit from some basic CBT methods.”

  • Opportunity to access sociable, recreational, physical, therapeutic and fun activities
  • Constructive, safe and helpful stimulation
  • Comfortable social contact with others
  • Development and acquisition of self-management and life skills
  • Less boredom and more meaningful engagement

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You might be wondering – what difference does Star Wards actually make to mental health wards? It’s a question we continuously ask ourselves, to make sure that we are having a positive impact. Well, we have over 800 wards signed up to receive our resources and, in the past, we have had Star Wards independently evaluated. A micro-summary of what our users have said is that wards who tried Star Wards ideas had:

This is not about us, it is about people like you. These improvements are down to your hard work. And you can check our newsletters for wards doing amazing things right now. So we are told we do help you make a difference – and we want to get better and be here to help you in the future. So, join up, join in and let us know your wonderful ideas – and if you can donate to us or fundraise for us, we would be delighted to hear from you. You can donate on the website or discuss fundraising by e-mailing here. Thank you for all you do.