A meaningful activities coordinator has been presented with a prestigious award from the Community Hospital Association for providing valued activities to inpatients.

Anna Mitchell, who is one of the meaningful activities coordinators at Launceston Community Hospital was presented the award along with the inpatient team by two representatives from the Community Hospital Association, Sue Greenwood, Matron for Camborne Redruth Community Hospital and David Seamark, Vice President, and Director of the Community Hospital Association.

The meaningful activities coordinator is an innovative new role, which encourages patients to take part in a wide variety of activities and social events to help keep them focussed, busy and occupied, which then reduces accidents, trips, and falls.

Anna joined the Trust at the start of the pandemic as a general worker then progressed to health care assistant and was successful in her application to become a meaningful activities coordinator at Launceston Community Hospital.

“When I joined the Trust, I felt that some meaningful activities could be done with patients to help them through the uncertainty of the pandemic. By spending time with patients and taking the time to build relationships with them, and their families, I have been able to find out what their hobbies and interests are or might have been in the past. I try to adapt activities to suit their interests and minimise stress during their hospital stay.”

Activities carried out include flower arranging, arts and crafts, singing, games, gardening and growing vegetables and even making mocktails to help increase hydration. Activities take place both inside and outside of the ward and are sometimes themed on events such as the Queen’s Jubilee and annual celebrations such as Easter and Remembrance Day.

Sue Greenwood is one of the representatives from the Community Hospitals Association who presented Anna with her award. She commented: “It was a delight and privilege to be able to present this award on behalf of the Community Hospital Association to Launceston Community Hospital.

“Anna, along with the support from her Matron, Sarah Washer and all the inpatient team, have championed this new role which has had such a positive impact to the people we care for in our community hospitals. Huge congratulations.”

Since the role of the meaningful activities coordinator at Launceston Community Hospital commenced nurses and therapists have reported the new role has improved their working lives, meaning that they can concentrate on more specialist tasks and technical duties, without worrying about the safety of their patients. Additionally, the hospital has seen a reduction in falls. The work of a meaningful activities coordinator has been so successful, that doctors are now socially prescribing time with a meaningful activities coordinator.

The meaningful activities coordinator role is also helping with nutrition and hydration by creating a social event for mealtimes, with music and conversation. “I join the patients for their meals and have been focussing on making mealtimes an occasion which then encourages positive eating habits and improves their appetites” adds Anna.

The role of the meaningful activities coordinator does not end when the patient leaves hospital; they are essential to creating a successful transfer of care, either back to the patient’s own home, or to a care home.

Anna explains: “The meaningful activities coordinator would have gained a wealth of information and knowledge about the patient from spending time doing activities. I get the patient ready to leave hospital, explain what will be happening next with their care and I travel with them to their next destination. I share information about activities they have enjoyed and things that have helped prevent further illness. As I have created a strong bond with the patient, I stay for a while and make sure that they are happy and settled and then check back a few weeks later to see how they are doing.”

Before the pandemic, Anna ran a bistro. When she had to shut her business, she joined the Trust as a general worker.

“I had no experience of working in health or care before my role, however, it is something I absolutely love and have such a great passion for. I was so pleased to be asked to be the meaningful activities coordinator, it is a role I am thoroughly enjoying and embracing.”

Patients have sung praise for the meaningful activities coordinator. Some feedback to the Trust has included: “the meaningful activities coordinators and other patient interaction helped me recover from my operation. I loved the time I spent in the garden”, “nobody likes being in hospital, but I really enjoyed the activities” and “I loved the craft room, singing and making things. The meaningful activities coordinator creates a great atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.”

Sarah Washer, matron of Launceston Community Hospital commented: “It was so great for the inpatient team to receive recognition for the innovative work they provided during the pandemic. I am immensely proud of them and the work they continue to do with meaningful activities and how beneficial these activities are for our patients.”

The Trust plans to expand the role of the meaningful activities coordinators to all its community hospitals.