Reflecting on our PERIPrem journey

As our PERIPrem (Perinatal Excellence to Reduce Injury in Premature Birth) project becomes part of our wider Maternity and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme (known as MatNeoSIP), Senior Project Manager, Noshin Menzies reflects on the year she spent supporting the project from her kitchen table and what lessons she’s learnt from launching and managing PERIPrem during a pandemic…

It has been 11 months since I was first asked to reflect on launching PERIPrem in the early days of the pandemic. A year that seems to have lasted a decade and ten minutes simultaneously. I have put off starting this blog post for a while now, as when I was asked to reflect once again on the lessons learned, I was hit with a wave of clichés that seem trite and tired. As the team providing the infrastructure for PERIPrem, we have learned to be agile, to be flexible, to swap offices for kitchens and to home-school whilst facilitating meetings, but this all seems so trivial when we now know what was demanded of our frontline colleagues.

The lessons I want to share are about the skills of knowing when to step back, when to rally teams and when to employ the odd joke to lighten the load in a virtual room. The lessons I will keep with me as we move into the next year of unknowns are those of camaraderie, collaboration and community through laptop screens and the tinny pings of whatsapp messages.

Steering the ship on a new journey

PERIPrem has now transitioned into the Maternal and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme (MatNeoSIP) and my time as a core crew member has ended, as I move on to other projects and PERIPrem doesn’t need us all quite like before.

When considering this, and what it would mean, I realised that PERIPrem had been the solid ship I and many others needed in the unchartered waters of the pandemic. The strength of PERIPrem is in its power to bring community to teams across the entire region. To individuals working from kitchen tables and to clinicians sitting into offices wearing PPE just so they can share a screen, HMS PERIPrem offers a lounger on deck to sit beside friends, and for a while, focus on the horizon.

The horizon, is of course, healthier, fuller lives for the most vulnerable pre-term babies. Babies who rely on the dynamic of the perinatal team seamlessly working as a united crew to ensure that they and their mothers, receive the very best of care, to give them the best chances.

The plans we made and changed

When we had to rapidly reassess how to launch PERIPrem virtually, when we had dreams of large, vibrant events and working side-by-side with our perinatal colleagues, we faced the unavoidable question of whether we could ask clinicians for their precious time when they were under such pressure.

It became clear, that for many of our colleagues, PERIPrem offered a space outside of the pandemic to channel creativity, innovation and a passion to improve care that they very much welcomed.

Our virtual celebration events will remain with me as such joyous, energy-filled times, where despite being spread across the South West, we were able to feel as though we were all together.  We have collated a vast library of resources, a valuable record of the journey we have navigated, which would not have come to fruition if we were able to proceed as planned.

I feel so proud when I see our PERIPrem logo. It is more than branding, it stands for what is possible when we all do what we can to retain community when physical distance is demanded and an emblem of our collective commitment to reduce brain injury.

What 2020 taught me – and how PERIPrem embodies those lessons

One of the most important lessons we have all learned is that no matter how dedicated we are to ensuring that all mothers and babies receive the very best care, that rolling wave of inequality keeps hitting the side of the ship and making the journey more treacherous for many.

The pandemic for me will be synonymous with a call to action, with a letting drift of the tolerance of social injustice and seeing with newly opened eyes the splinters of discrimination built into our society and thus the NHS.

PERIPrem has always kept this at its core, to look at the myriad ways that women and their babies may be disadvantaged. Now we are able to galvanise this and I am filled with excitement as we firm up plans to be bold and innovative in our commitment to do better for the women and families that need us to hold space for them.

The power of the team

I’m so grateful to the community that PERIPrem has offered us all during the strangest of times. It serves as a reminder that we all share such willing to do the very best for the people in our region. It has been such a privilege to watch how each team has dedicated their precious time to implement PERIPrem, led by such inspirational women, Karen, Sarah, Ellie, Ann, Tracey, Sally and Aless, most of whom were also working clinically alongside steering this ship.

As I reflect on the extraordinary experience of working, mothering and keeping my head above water over the last year, it is with nothing but pride that I can say, “No I didn’t learn a new language, make a sourdough starter or learn how to crochet.”  What I will treasure (show off about) is that I got to be a part of PERIPrem, travel across the South West from the comfort of my dining chair, and learn from the most dedicated, empathetic, energetic and quick-witted team.

Read more about PERIPrem.

Read more about our Maternity and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme.

Posted on June 3, 2021 by Noshin Menzies, Senior Project Manager, West of England AHSN

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