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The Medical Sciences Division is celebrating 10 years since its first Athena Swan bronze application, and the first year in which all 16 of its departments have achieved a silver award. The silver award recognises commitment to gender equality, understanding culture and context, and more. Read about our department’s hard work and innovation.

Professor Claire Edwards, academic champion in NDS quotes “The Athena Swan Charter has helped us to better understand our department, and establish new practices to build an inclusive working environment that is supportive for all.”

Mental Health Pilot Project

Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS) noticed that men were less likely to engage with the topic of mental health and wellbeing, while women were likely to report feeling less comfortable discussing mental health and wellbeing compared with their male colleagues. Below are some of the actions they took:

  • Trained a cohort of Mental Health First Aiders and launched the ‘Wellbeing Support Service’ so that staff can access someone who is trained to listen and signpost them to support. We now run the training annually and have expanded the service to run across two departments. We aim to keep 10% of our department trained as Mental Health First Aiders
  • Devising a mental health and wellbeing policy
  • New pages on our staff intranet providing resources around mental health and wellbeing, including crisis support lines
  • Monthly ‘Wellbeing Wednesday Bulletin’, which gives information, resources and support on specific topics, such as anxiety, depression, bereavement, etc.

As a result of this concerted push 83% of staff felt their health and wellbeing was adequately supported at work, that number increases to 94% when you remove non-answers. 80% of staff are comfortable discussing concerns they may have about their health and wellbeing with their manager. This increases to 92% when removing non-answers.

NDS ranked among the highest three departments in the University for staff wellbeing in the 2021 Staff Experience Survey, and are immensely proud of the impact this focused piece of work has had across the department.

"There still a lot of stigma and fear about talking about mental health problems and severe mental illness and in the workplace either confidentially with a line manager or with colleagues. I think the project is working to create a framework so that staff with mental health problems feel safe and supported whether they choose to disclose their condition to their employer or not. There’s a lot of situations where HR or line managers introduce policies in the office environment which they are not aware have a detrimental impact on people with mental health problems and I’m really pleased that this project will help address that. I find it very difficult to stick your head above the crowd to raise these issues as an individual. I have found taking part in the project really affirming and I feel more comfortable and confident talking about my mental health in the workplace. Although focused on mental health, the mental health policy will provide a lot of benefits to other people with disabilities and health conditions (particularly hidden disabilities)."

A brick wall with a painted sign saying 'How are you, really?' with a quote from John Gilbert "The project is working to create a framework so that staff with mental health problems feel safe and supported whether they choose to disclose their condition to their employer or not." 

NDS Training Fund

NDS created a training fund that allows staff to apply for up to £1000 worth of funding for external training. Any member of staff can join including professional and support staff who are often overlooked in this area, and they encourage those of fixed-term contracts to use it as well, to prepare them to potentially re-entering the job market.

Since its creation, the fund has been used by 19 staff across different roles, 10 of whom are women.

Read testimonials from NDS staff who were successful in applying to the staff training fund

NDS HR Officer Gemma Horbatowski and the quote "I cannot thank the department enough. Not only did they pay for my qualification, they also allowed me to step out of my role one day a week." 

Read about equality, diversity and inclusion activity in the other 16 departments.

Blog posts

Pulling in one direction to fundraise for the Oxford Pancreatic and Liver (OPAL) fund

Last month, a team of cyclists that included two members of NDS (Mr Alex Gordon-Weeks and Martin Pirkl) cycled coast to coast of England to raise funds for OPAL. Here, Martin tells us more.

Support Dimitrios as he runs not one, but two charity races to help beat cancer

NDS researcher Dimitrios Doultsinos is getting set to run a half marathon and a full marathon this autumn for the CRIS Cancer Foundation.

Getting race fit to support cancer research

Research Nurse Katherine (Katy) Gordon-Quayle is raising funds for Cancer Trials Ireland and the OPAL (Oxford Pancreatic and Liver) Fund by riding in a charity horse race on Pat Smullen Race Day at the Curragh in Ireland. Here she explains why she is undertaking such a momentous challenge.

The NDS work experience - where 5.30am wake ups are worth your time!

In this guest blog, Lison Lafarge from Buckinghamshire reflects on her experience of the 2023 NDS Work Experience Programme.

NDS Work Experience Programme: My reflections on an interesting and transformative week

Hello! My name is Bakhtawar and I’m from the vibrant city of Glasgow in Scotland. I am excited to share my reflections on the experience I had.

Similar stories

Mentoring in practice

NDS has launched a new, interdepartmental mentoring scheme called RECOGNISE. In this podcast, Gemma Horbatowski (HR Advisor) interviews Monica Dolton (Programme Manager and Research Project Manager) about her experiences of mentor-mentee relationships.