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New matrons: stepping up during the pandemic

Two new matrons at the same trust talk about the pressures and pleasures of the role

New matrons Katie Haywood and Louise Duce talk about the pressures and pleasures of the role

As new matrons taking up our posts in a pandemic we were entering uncharted territory.

Guidance changed rapidly, services were redesigned, staff were shielding or off sick and anxiety levels were high. We both felt the pressure to be up and running as quickly as possible and be ready to face things to come.

Ensuring patient and staff safety was absolutely paramount, and of course is a massive part of the matron role.

Ways of working in the NHS changed overnight

We felt pressure to get to know staff quickly, build relationships and understand

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New matrons Katie Haywood and Louise Duce talk about the pressures and pleasures of the role

Katie Haywood (left) and Louise Duce

As new matrons taking up our posts in a pandemic we were entering uncharted territory.

Guidance changed rapidly, services were redesigned, staff were shielding or off sick and anxiety levels were high. We both felt the pressure to be up and running as quickly as possible and be ready to face things to come.

Ensuring patient and staff safety was absolutely paramount, and of course is a massive part of the matron role.

Ways of working in the NHS changed overnight

We felt pressure to get to know staff quickly, build relationships and understand skill mix and changes to patient flow, as well as evolving infection prevention guidelines. It was a lot to take on board.

Ways of working in the NHS changed overnight, affecting every specialty. This rapid change in pace meant we picked things up quickly – we learned by doing.

We both joined established teams that welcomed us warmly. We made an effort to integrate quickly, getting to know people and calling on our previous experience and that of our new colleagues.

Proud to have shared the experience with other staff

Changes in the prioritisation of services meant the focus was on clinical areas, being alongside staff.

We are proud to have been through this experience with them and it bonded us more quickly than might have been the case under normal circumstances.

A wide range of resources was integral to our development. We were able to network with others internally at our trust and externally via many formats.

We shared knowledge and skills like never before

Social media has been a fantastic way to connect with others. Webinars via the matron network have been beneficial and can be found through NHS Improvement and on twitter at @matronnetwork and #teamCNO.

Redeployment saw staff experience new specialties and ways of working.

There was suddenly a wealth of learning opportunities available and sharing of skills and knowledge like never before.

Staff morale was affected: people were tired and anxious, and some were out of their normal working environment.

This required us to work constantly to empower and motivate staff while ensuring everyone was safe.

Staff often felt tired and anxious. Picture: Neil O’Connor

To achieve this we tried to be visible and accessible to our staff. Being unable to see people face-to-face as normal created barriers. We needed to find new ways of working.

It was difficult not to feel isolated sometimes. Identifying a buddy, mentor or supervisor was helpful.

We were lucky to have each other, and to have experienced and supportive teams around us.

Redeployment had its benefits but we saw the effect it had on staff health and well-being

Rapidly changing guidelines were difficult to keep on top of, with increased communications and changes to communicate and implement. This meant it was important to take opportunities to rest or have breaks, as well as talking things through with others.

While redeployment had its benefits, we also saw the effect it had on staff health and well-being.

As new matrons supporting teams through COVID-19 it was and still is important for us to seek our own support so we can be resilient for others.

Pastoral support is imperative in the restoration of the workforce and being able to help staff.

This included staff who were at home shielding, keeping them in the loop and reassuring them when they experienced feelings of guilt and isolation because they were at home.

It is a rewarding role and an opportunity to have a strong voice for patients and staff

Apart from taking on a new role during the pandemic, becoming new matrons has been a massive learning curve, and we can’t emphasise enough the importance of effective, open communication. Leadership skills are just as important.

We share similar traits that have served us well in our first few months – being sincere and open to change, being approachable problem-solvers with a can-do attitude.

If applying for a matron role is something you are thinking about doing then go for it. It is a rewarding role and an opportunity to have a strong voice for patients and staff. No one expects you to get it right first time – what’s important is the learning and growth that comes with it.

Ask, listen, expand your network – and be kind to yourself

Ask questions logoAsk questions – any new role requires learning to understand ways of working, processes and the people you will be working with

Be kind to yourself – take time to be self-aware and to reflect, and allow time to settle into the role: not every decision will be the right one but don’t let it hold you back, and remember that agendas are always moving so be flexible and move with them

Listen logoListen actively – with lots to learn, observing and listening will help you to understand what’s going on

Expand your network – you will have many more people to meet and they will all be helpful in some way. It is important to have many people around you who can support you and offer guidance, and don’t forget you may be able to offer them the same in return

Don’t be afraid to make your expectations known – done in the right way and at the right time, sharing expectations is helpful for people to know where they stand, understand boundaries and limitations, and feel united by shared goals and visions


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