King's Mill Hospital staff 'break the menopause taboo' by opening up about symptoms

Female staff across King's Mill Hospital have come together to talk about the menopause and "break the taboo" associated with changes to their body.

It comes as part of the second-annual menopause conference at Sherwood Forest Hospitals, which aims to support women in the workplace as they experience symptoms while working.

King's Mill Hospital in Sutton.

King's Mill Hospital in Sutton.

The conference coincides with World Menopause Day and aims to start conversations among staff about issues surrounding the changes, and how employees at the trust can be better supported.

It was coordinated by Suzanne Banks, the trust's chief nurse, who experienced symptoms of the menopause herself and sought out support from agencies.

Suzanne, aged 54, discovered a firm called Henpicked which ran menopause awareness courses and looked to organise last year's conference - that she hailed a "huge success".

And now, for the second conference, she is encouraging more people to talk about the menopause in the workplace and "break the taboo" associated with its symptoms.

Chief Nurse Suzanne Banks

Chief Nurse Suzanne Banks

"The menopause, whether pre, during or post, can be varied in its impact, especially within the workplace", she said.

"We need to remember that some of our most successful employees are female, but because they are now working into their sixties and the average age of the menopause is 51, they're battling with symptoms that can really affect them.

"We need to support these women and ensure that they can continue to work and feel happy at work."

The nurse says she always felt comfortable talking about her symptoms when she went through her changes, but believes some women are often unaware when their symptoms strike.

Ceri Feltbower, trust associate director of service improvement, at the conference.

Ceri Feltbower, trust associate director of service improvement, at the conference.

But she added that it is important for men, as well as women, to become aware of symptoms and to understand what they might mean in order to ensure the "right support" is available.

She said: "It's important to remember that this isn't just an issue for women, men should be aware too so they can support, colleagues, friends and family, and our patients too.

"Menopause can still be considered a taboo subject, but we're encouraging everyone to talk about it openly.

"After all, it;s a natural phase in every woman's life and it's time that workplaces like ours understood this and put the right support in place."

Suzanne Banks giving a speech at the conference.

Suzanne Banks giving a speech at the conference.

Four out of 10 women who work at Sherwood Forest Hospitals are over the age of 50, and with women working into an older age it is likely they will experience symptoms while still in the workplace.

Since last year's conference, the trust has launched line manager training and new guidance documents for staff when they experience symptoms.

The second conference, on October 18, was packed with men and women from across the trust and the public, with guests hearing stories from staff about their own experiences.

Ceri Feltbower, 49, has recently started experiencing changes, but she says they were not the "typical" symptoms that come with the menopause.

It was not until last year's menopause conference that she began to understand what her body's changes meant.

She said: "I often felt a profound sense of dread and anxiety that I could not shift. This made me tired and irritable at work, and I often felt I was 'outside of myself',

"It was then that I heard about the menopause conference, and I started to question that these symptoms were associated with the menopause.

"Following last year's conference, more women are talking about the menopause and it feels like a positive club rather than something to shy away from discussing.

"I'm sure I would be ploughing on if the event hadn't triggered me to get help.

"It is something that every woman around the world will go through, in a way it is the new puberty, and the more we talk about it and share our experiences, it will become a lot easier to break the taboo."