The short story of my ODN Europe adventure

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21 / 5 / 2015 10.29pm

by Tracey Watson

This is the first time I have written a blog, so bear with me. I am going to tell you in my own style about my great experience attending the ODN Europe Conference at the wonderful Roffey Park in May this year.

My name is Tracey Watson, I work as an OD Practitioner for Northumberland Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust. I am currently helping to support a large change project which is transforming the way community mental health services and treatment is delivered. My passion is coaching; 121 and in groups. I believe that people normally have the answers to our wicked problems, and coaching and clever questions help them realise it.  

My two day adventure to Roffey Park started well when myself and Nicoll Lloyd (my travelling buddy) were tweeting from the train about how we were looking forward to the conference; we were learning to master twitter together. Secretly I was nervous and thoughts in my head were “Will I understand all of these clever people?” “Do I really do real OD?” “Will I be able to contribute?” and  “Will they understand my Geordie accent?”

The answer was yes, yes, yes and on the whole yes ,but I may have lost some along the way! 

I attended some brilliant sessions over the two days and had very interesting and inspiring conversations with people I met. I learned so much – in particular three areas have stood out for me.

I went to Writing Open Possibilities - writing more about my work is a major area of development. I tend to get bored and get bogged down with facts and numbers. I want to write about my work but never know where to start. The session was brilliantly facilitated by Julie Beedon and Jenny Charteris. I was a little nervous, however we were encouraged to write just for ourselves and to free ourselves - I found myself writing a story about my work and myself in the style of a fairy tale. 

The pressure was off and I was writing only for me and my creative juices were flowing. I wrote solidly for 15 minutes. When reading back and discussing with a partner, I discovered how I viewed myself at work. I was a pauper girl who was trying to help her village engage with magical trolls who cure and help people but were heavily revered by the elders in the village. I was writing about the relationships our clinicians have with the management system, particularly our medics. This revelation has helped me see that a neutral person in OD can be very useful in bringing people together without a tribal agenda and help people to tell their stories within a time of great change within our NHS.

I was moved to tears twice in the two days. The first was Dr John J Scherer telling his story of the transformational events in his life that brought him into the field of OD. I was struck by his humility; here he was, centre stage, completely beguiling his audience with his obvious brilliance, passion and emotion for what he did then in the next session he was sitting next to me being a student and soaking in the learning and asking questions. He was a mortal just like me! His quote from the presentation resonated with me "You don’t need to change yourself, you need to come home to yourself. That changes everything."

The second session where I was deeply moved was listening to Dawn Jarvis tell us her story of changing a culture within her trust. Dawn presented a patients' story; a lady who had cleaning fluid injected into her leg during an angiogram by accident. She tragically lost her leg. The courage of this lady and her family and how she over came life after her leg was amputated was so powerful. She and her husband told their story with courage and though obviously upsetting, wanted to others to learn from it. It really resonated with me as my daughter had the same procedure at 12 years of age and by the grace of god was fine. It fired me up to want to improve systems and tell stories. We have brilliant staff who work in the NHS and the systems we create sometimes make delivering safe care more difficult. We must help our staff speak out and work together to navigate the systems for the benefit of the patient. 

I tend to forget facts, figures and information; however this story will stay with me for a very long time. It has inspired me to look for ways of collecting stories in my role not just the numerical data.  

I left the conference shattered, but so inspired, I would urge anyone who is working in the field of OD to attend. It showed me there are multiple ways of doing OD. You bring yourself to the field, your experience your education whatever that is and you bring your motives and fears. Each part is useful, I always feel very lucky to do the job I do, however now I feel completely at ease with who I am and what unique qualities I bring to the role.  

Thank you for the wonderful inclusive experience.              

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