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Catriona Rowland Mental Wellness Champion Winner 2021

5th January 2022

Happy New year!

To kick off 2022 in style, we are chatting to Catriona Rowland from Barts Health NHS Trust who won for Mental Wellness Champion at the 2021 Unsung Hero Awards in November. Catriona speaks on what being shortlisted for an Unsung Hero Award meant to her, what her role as a Mental Health and Wellbeing Champion involves, and also, what the best part of her job is. 

Hi Catriona, what does being shortlisted for this award mean to you?

It’s really humbling and I feel so honoured and proud to have the work I’ve been doing around Mental Health and Wellbeing at Newham Hospital recognised.

Being nominated was exciting, but to be shortlisted and see that people value the work I’ve been doing around supporting staff and their mental health is just amazing. I’m really grateful.

What does your role as a Mental Health and Wellbeing Champion involve?

It’s my job to make sure staff have plenty of opportunities to relax, decompress and unwind – either at the hospital or outside of work. This can be anything from making sure our wellbeing areas are comfortable and relaxing, so staff can have 10 minutes downtime, or running Health and Fitness programmes, to ensuring staff know about the support that’s available to them, such as Psychological support or being a listening, supportive ear for them myself. I’m also involved in making sure that the hospital has the right infrastructure in place to provide staff wellbeing – for example, I’m involved in the building of our new, permanent wellbeing hub.

It’s been a hard 20 months for everyone and the increased focus on looking after our Mental and Physical Health is brilliant and so important. I’m so glad I get to be part of it.

How did you get involved in wellbeing?

Before the pandemic hit, I was part of the quality improvement (QI) team at Newham Hospital, working on using QI methodology to deliver various projects across the hospital. Then, when Covid-19 hit, I was redeployed to ITU as a Float Nurse, where I helped with logistics and generally keeping the ward running.

When I was doing this work, I also started getting involved in staff wellbeing projects. I knew that it was going to be vital for staff to look after themselves if we were going to get through this, and I wanted to be a part of making that happen, so I started working on wellbeing. I really enjoy the wellbeing work because it’s something different, but I still get to use my QI skill. So, in December 2020 when I was asked to take the lead on wellbeing at the hospital, I said yes immediately!

What are you most proud of in your role?

I’m really proud of how we’ve dramatically improved our wellbeing offer for staff at Newham Hospital since the pandemic began. It’s a real testament to our leadership team and everyone who’s been involved.

On a personal level, I’m really proud of the strides we’ve made with cycling on the site. We now have a new cycle storage hub, we have a path in to the hospital from the Greenway, and we have the Brompton Bike Scheme available to staff and patients. I wasn’t a cyclist before but I took it up at the beginning of the pandemic as a way to avoid using public transport. Now, I cycle all the time and encourage other staff to as well. There’s so many benefits to it – both physical and mental. 

What’s the best part of your job?

I love that I get to use my QI skills a lot – that we get to test out which projects and offers work best for staff, but also which ones don’t work. And I love seeing the joy and excitement on people’s faces when they’ve taken 20 minutes to have a rest in the massage chair, or when they’ve had a massage from the UEL students and feel reinvigorated afterwards. The free magazines and free well-being bags have also gone down really well with staff. Helping organise the freebie meals also was something great to be part of. 

But I think the best thing has to be the people. I love getting to meet, work with and spend time with so many members of staff from so many different teams. It’s been an emotional battle for a lot of people over the last two years, and we’re still in it. To be able to play a role in making people’s day better or easier is brilliant.

How did it feel to win for Mental Wellness Champion at the 2021 Unsung Hero Awards? 

Actually I feel a bit emotional, because I didn’t expect it. It’s a wonderful feeling, but it’s really for all the staff at Barts Health and what they have done in the past year, as well as Newham Hospital. Without them I don’t think I would be here…it’s been a lovely event and I’ve enjoyed every minuet of it. 

Watch Catriona’s winners interview HERE and the Official 2021 Event Video HERE

Original Interview reprinted with permission by Aine McCarthy, Head of Communications, Newham University Hospital. 

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