Introducing our Wobble Room in Whitby, and why it might be a great idea to create one in your area

Published: 05 August 2021 to 31 December 2098

In the first wave of the pandemic, NHS Fab Stuff began advertising “Doing the best we can with what we’ve got.” It was their aim to do things differently during the Covid-19 pandemic for the betterment of staff’s mental health.

Dr Rachel Pilling, a Consultant Ophthalmologist of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, found that during their covid planning meetings, she began to feel “a bit overwhelmed” at what was coming, “I could see it was going to have an impact on the eye care we provide to people, let alone everything else.” Dr Pilling continued by saying “I knew that the staff were going to feel the same and it came from a place where I realised I couldn’t make it better,” this prompted Dr Pilling to create a ‘Wobble Room,” she said, “I thought other people are going to feel like this and they’re going to need a space to share this.”

As a result of Dr Pilling’s #FabChange20 Virtual Conference, NHS Fab Stuff supplied downloads that could be printed off, which included coping mechanisms and breathing exercises to assist staff and patients when they were feeling overwhelmed. This idea caught media attention as far as Vancouver in Canada, as well as the BBC and other national news. These ideas were used to support patients and staff around the UK; it highlighted how Trusts were putting in these so-called ‘wobble rooms’ for staff to take a break, scream, shout and cry. Staff could get all their emotions out and then get back to work quickly.

Whitby Hospital had covid-positive patients at the time of the wobble rooms’ announcement, and staff were quickly becoming overwhelmed both at work and at home. They were in need of a space to go to when a time out was required, a place to collect their thoughts, take a breath and get back to work, a room exactly as Dr Pilling had also created.

Sonia Rafferty, Service Manager at Whitby Hospital, thought a wobble room was a fantastic idea, and so she quickly found a room that was previously used for mental health assessments, a perfect place Sonia thought for staff to feel calm and have some time out.

After contacting our Trust charity, Health Stars, Sonia was delighted to hear that they could help her add the sparkle to the room, by supplying funding for cushions, throws, radios, and other items to make the newly formed wobble room more comfortable. Sonia brought in fairy lights and an aromatherapy machine to make the room even more comforting and welcoming. Also, mindfulness colouring books and pens were added; bottles of water and snacks, wellbeing and inspirational quotes, and a yoga mat coupled with yoga stances to help staff stretch out. Staff recognised whilst this was nothing fancy, it was exactly what they needed and many expressed their appreciation.  

The door leading into the wobble room is decorated with pleasant jellyfish artwork, and is a coded door as opposed to a lock and key door. The benefit of this means that staff can enter the room spontaneously when they feel the need to, and they do not have to bottle their emotions until someone can give them access. There is no judgement for anyone going to use these spaces as their purpose is to pull you out of work so you can get more out of it.

Sonia endeavours to write a ‘Quote of the week’ on the wall every week, which relates to how staff might be feeling in response to any issues she knows have arisen. She can also link to the week ahead and let staff know that she’s been in there and that she’s acknowledging the struggles of the job. Staff have been known to reply with their own comments and quotes which has prompted some nice interactions.

Ultimately, a wobble room is somewhere for our staff to relax, take a breath and have that down time that is often much needed on a daily basis. It is about us  giving something back to staff when they need it most.

The wobble room will be integrated into the plans for the Whitby Hospital renovation because of the positive feedback. Many other Trusts have also taken the wobble rooms idea on board, and we feel sure that the idea will continue to be used by more and more people as time goes by.

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