After an operating system update a while ago, my tablet started to show me randomly picked pictures from my photo library. Last week one popped up from our 2019 Endoscopy Christmas Party. Clearly, as we posed, all made up, drinks in hands, laughing, smiling, eyes and clothes sparkling, brothers/sisters in arms (we all know how a good old boogie on a cramped dance floor bonds a team!) - we had no clue of what was around the corner.
It made me realise that the "comfort", that familiarity, that warm feeling of knowing exactly where your place is within your team is what has been missing.
Working in Endoscopy meant that normal outpatient services were stopped last March. A core team of nursing staff were allocated to cover emergency endoscopy and others were to shield or to be redeployed to various wards.
It is often said that good teams have a "hive mentality" where members are a community and have a mutual respect for each other and a collective interest, like bees living and working for their hive. Now that reassuring "beehive" was gone in an instant and instead there was a gnawing anxiety and a sense of dread whilst brave faces were put on.
Endoscopy services soon began to re-open but new precautions again divided the team; roles and routines had to be adjusted to keep staff and patients safe. Nobody was quite working in their comfort zone.
This rocky rollercoaster continued with the third major lockdown, endoscopy returned to an emergency-only service, and shielding and redeployment were back. We all felt it hit us again, that strangeness, that isolation and a little bit more dread.
The return to endoscopy has been staggered over weeks but at last as a team we are all back in our "hive", our comfortable place. Not everything is familiar as some practices have changed irrevocably but we will adjust to that knowing that we can give the tests our patients need safely. Our collective interest is restored.
Another thing often said about great teams is that they laugh a lot, often at silly little things that might mean nothing to someone else. I don't think we have laughed much over the past year, so my hope for the coming months is that our team and yours begin to rebuild the "hives" and learn to laugh together again.