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What is Circles?

Circles is a listening and sharing space for nurses, matrons and midwives in all NHS departments and bands.

Eight people and two hosts sit in a circle around an audio speaker. Prompted by recordings of fellow nurses’ experiences, we reflect on how we’re currently feeling in our own lives. There’s no hierarchy, and everyone has equal opportunity to share what’s on their mind.

We aim for Circles to be…

  • Respectful
  • Accepting
  • Inclusive
  • Confidential

Circle is the way humans have always sat together and gotten to know one another… Sitting together as equals, slowed down, held by the shape, drawing on ancient familiarity – just what we need at this time! 

Margaret  J. Wheatley, writer and teacher

Listen to a snippet of our audio clips

I think it’s important to rest. I think it’s important to say ‘No, I’m sorry, I have way too much on my plate at the moment.’ And I think you’re within your right to say that. When you’re tired, take a rest. If you’re tired, you can’t be of any help to the patient, to you, or even to your family. So it’s important to take. It’s important and nobody should ever feel that they cannot say no.

What you can expect from a Circles session

As illustrated by Hannah Ekuwa Buckman


Eight to ten nurses and two hosts meet in a private room with mugs of tea and plenty of fruit, biscuits, and cake.

Once everyone has a name label and a seat in the circle, our hosts introduce themselves and the ground rules.


We start by listening to a few minutes of recorded stories from nurses. They share how they’re feeling in audio clips full of vulnerability, emotion and honesty.

Listen to a snippet of our audio clips

Nurses want to go into work and do the best that they can. But when you’ve got a depleted workforce, you’re not able to do all of the care that you want to do. The biggest challenge is the workforce; it’s not having all the staff you need to be able to do your job and give a gold-standard service, if I can say it that way.

But we’ve just come out of a huge pandemic, and we saw nursing staff, you know, go above and beyond. They did that before the pandemic and they do it now. But, you know, we don’t have superpowers.


The facilitator offers a question and we take a journey around the circle, with each person invited to share their responses for two uninterrupted minutes.

In each round we give space to every person; whether you’re a facilitator or participant, everyone has two minutes. The structure gives space to listen to others and to ourselves, enabling deeper connections through common struggles, fears and hopes.

There’s no expectation to offer advice – something that can be difficult for those with a job centred on fixing and healing!


The hosts keep time and signal when each person’s two minutes is up.

We repeat the process two more times, each time tuning in to recorded stories, introducing a new question, and then listening to everyone’s reflections in two-minute listening periods.


After three rounds of the circle, we come together for a final meditation, breathing or movement exercise to close the space. The hosts thank everyone for their heartfelt sharing, presence, and time.


We enjoy the laughter, joy and connection brought about by sharing with each other, and likely leave the circle feeling better for it.

We need to know we’re not alone – especially when we’re hurting.

Brené Brown, writer and researcher

Why take part?

Being heard is extremely powerful – but it can be hard to find moments where we can truly listen to one another. The opportunity to share the truth of their experiences is one that many nurses rarely have.

Research in neuroscience has shown that when we listen to stories of others’ lives, the reactions in our own brains mirror theirs. Sharing stories heightens levels of oxytocin, increases empathy, and leads us to feel less alone. Circles makes space to feel these benefits in our working lives.

Help us hold more Circles!

Circles is an independent project that we’d love to make more accessible to workplaces across the country.