Steps in the right direction

In this post Alison Smart & Deirdre O’Neill reflect on embedding self care into the nursing curriculum and introduce the all school walking challenge.

It isn’t too long ago as a deputy charge nurse that I remember struggling to sleep knowing that our staffing levels the next day were not met and wondering how that ICU patient was doing after their surgery. We as a profession of Nurses & Midwives can often deal with very difficult situations and forget about ourselves amongst the maelstrom. This issue has resurfaced in a profound way over the last 12 months of the pandemic with working from home making it very difficult to switch off – I’m sure a lot of you can resonate with this. 

In addition to our career pressures, you are the go-to person for friends and families. Therefore, it is imperative that we, staff, students and the profession as a whole start to look after ourselves and carve out time on a daily basis to fill that cup so we can pour from it in the future. This couldn’t be more true in Northern Ireland – we have a workforce crisis within nursing, so we need to do all we can to manage our well-being and in turn increase recruitment and retention. 

With the introduction of the new curricula, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to embed and promote “Self-Care for Health Care” within the School of Nursing. Due to the new NMC proficiency of ensuring you are in good health this seemed like an ideal opportunity to put this into practice in Year 1 Professionalism in Nursing. 

Each week the students discovered a new activity to undertake, placed visibly within the module material for the week (see Box 1). Students were then asked to reflect and identify how they felt before the activity and how they felt after. 

The feedback received from staff & students was overwhelmingly positive with one of the standout highlights being the step challenge. 

“It is easy, effective and we can all do it” 

“Loved it, got me out and about again” 

“I felt so good after my morning walks”. 

We virtually climbed Mont Blanc and Jo Mc Mullan stormed in front when we headed to the Mediterranean and raced up Corsica (220,000 steps in January). We used a clever and easy app (SQUADS) that allows a forum to message, input steps, share motivation and a healthy dose of competition. 

After speaking with colleagues & sharing the app. Deirdre O’Neill tried it out with Year 2. Let’s hear how they got on: 

After hearing the success of the walking challenge in year one I could not wait to pitch the idea so the students on their return to phase five. With the help of Chloe Gardiner (year two student nurse) a challenge was set up each week for all of us to complete. We divided into three teams and competed against each other encouraging each other to win the weekly challenge.  Initially the challenge was only too last six weeks but because we all see the benefit of not only daily exercise, but we were also able to connect with each other in this virtual platform.  Students were encouraged to share photos of their walking sceneries, so we had pictures of forests, beaches and country lanes.  We saw snow falls and the beginning of the touches of spring.  Each week at the start or end of class we would share our walking stories and because of the laughter and connection it has brought us we will continue the challenge when the students begin their next placement.  

Due to popular demand and with momentum on our side we are holding a walking challenge for staff and students alike as part of QUBbeWell week. The challenge will consist of a Race up Corsica Canyon (69,750 steps) from Monday to Friday. We invite you all to come on board and join the fun. All you need to do is open the link on your phone and join the squad. 

We have also secured some great prizes including a six-month PEC membership in collaboration with Queens Sport and a two-week meal supply kindly donated by Primal Fox Nutrition. In addition to the first 3 people to reach the virtual summit, we have also got a prize for the best picture from all your walks, so get snapping! 

Any questions regarding the app, well-being material or if you fancy a chat, just get in touch or

6 thoughts on “Steps in the right direction

  1. Thank you Deirdre and Alison!

    I’ve really enjoyed connecting with this app during the early trial runs. Although my step count has been less than meagre, it’s not the only benefit as your blog reflects. The notion of seeing people outside classes or formal (even informal) meetings has all but disappeared from our professional lives. The impromptu chats, the smiles and hellos when passing through MBC foyer, and the kitchen chats with colleagues are things I desperately miss.

    The Squads app gives us a chance to connect informally, which is so precious in the times! It’s not about the walking for me, although it’s super to have encouragement to get out and breathe that early spring fresh air.

    Looking forward to adding more meagre steps (and maybe up my game!) in this bigger better version for all! See you on SQUADS!


  2. The step challenge is a great idea. I’m sure some of the postgrads would be willing to take part too. Shall spread the word!

  3. Wow ladies this sounds amazing – don’t know if I’d make it up Cave Hill but THANK YOU this is a fabulous initiative and we all need it very much after all the sunshine and longer days have arrived!

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