CAKE is a recipe for success in creating healthy staff teams

By press office

Nurses at QMU are promoting the use of CAKE to support wellbeing in individuals and teams who can contribute to the success of organisations.

Since the start of the pandemic, organisations have become far more aware of the need to protect the mental and physical wellbeing of their staff. With significant experience of the stress faced by nurses in the workplace, a group of community nurses and two nurse academics from Queen Margaret University (QMU) have developed an interactive toolkit called CAKE, which acts as a recipe for self-care and team wellbeing. 


CAKE, which stands for Caring for self and others, Attending to what’s happening, Keeping connected and Enabling and empowering, is now available for nurses, health professionals and a wide range of teams across different organisations. It is available as an online resource, but can be particularly effective when used face-to-face in staff teams.  

CAKE, which makes use of creative storytelling to help manage stress and wellbeing, has been developed by QMU’s Senior Nursing Lecturer, Dr Caroline Dickson, and Honorary Nursing Lecturer and founder of ListenUpStorytelling, Dr Kath MacDonald.  

The academics co-designed the resource with community nurses who shared their stories of stressful experiences during the pandemic, before piloting it with 17 healthcare professionals and teams across the UK. The feedback was so positive that the academics were encouraged to work with a graphic designer, videographer and IT consultant to help create a digital resource which would be easily accessible across the country. With the help of these experts, CAKE is now attracting interest from health and social care professionals, as well as business organisations, who are all keen to support the wellbeing of their own teams. 

Discussing the power of storytelling in self and team care, Dr Kath MacDonald explained:

"Storytelling has been used for centuries to entertain and engage. In terms of the benefits to healthcare workers and other professionals, using fairy tales and creative methods to share information and express oneself can distance the storyteller from the actual event and help to create a safe space. It provides a new way for people to express and deal with their thoughts and feelings. Combined with reflection and action planning this can be a game changer for teams in terms of improving communication, lightening the load, and engendering team support and understanding."
Dr Kath MacDonald, Honorary Nursing Lecturer at Queen Margaret University and founder of Listen Up Storytelling
"We acknowledge there are many wellbeing resources available, but CAKE is unique in its use of storytelling and its aim of developing teams in the workplace. CAKE also empowers teams to decide what their wellbeing strategies will be and encourages them to embed these into everyday practice."
Dr Caroline Dickson, Senior Nursing Lecturer, Queen Margaret University

Scottish Tech Army has been the catalyst in bringing Nat West Skills Bank and Drs Dickson and MacDonald together to digitise the resource, making it available for a wider audience. Funding from the RCN Foundation Covid Fund has supported the second phase of this project, which was initially supported by the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland and the Community Lottery Fund. This has allowed the academic team to take CAKE, from a resource designed by and for nurses and healthcare professionals, to an online resource suitable for wide ranging organisations across a diverse range of sectors.   

Sheena Hales leads NatWest Skillbank said: “Supporting our communities is key to NatWest’s purpose. We could immediately see the potential of CAKE and have been delighted to see our colleagues use their skills and time to help Dr Dickson and Dr MacDonald turn their vision into reality at no cost. One of our Skillbank Champions, Jonathon Love, relentlessly supported the design and development of the solution while coaching and encouraging the talented graphic design graduate. It is satisfying to see how CAKE provides tremendous benefit to other organisations beyond community nurses to help support the health and wellbeing of their staff to build strong, resilient teams across their workforces.”  

Scottish Tech Army recruits volunteers from the tech industry who work to develop digital solutions to organisations supporting individuals and organisations across the country, helping those organisations to improve their capacity, efficiency and reach.  Dr Dickson said: “Joanna Allen from Scottish Tech Army has helped make the connections between education, health and the private sector. The academic team has also utilised new talent in the design and production of CAKE. Bob Winton, QMU graduate from the video production company, Pinescope, has created the videos in the resource, and Hamish Hannah, a recent graphic design graduate from Napier University, has created the graphics and the attractive visual feel for CAKE."   

Joanna Allen said: “The CAKE project has allowed us to connect the tech eco-system whilst supporting the development of our volunteers like Hamish.” 

Professor Fiona Coutts, Dean of the School of Health Sciences at Queen Margaret University, concluded: “QMU has a proud history of responding to some of the most pressing needs of our society. The pandemic has made us aware of the need for self-care, human interaction, and understanding, as well as the requirement to nurture teams and build resilience across organisations. I am delighted that QMU has been able to bring a unique blend of creativity and healthcare knowledge to create a self-care and team resource which has the potential to change lives and strengthen organisations.”   

CAKE will launch at Queen Margaret University on 14th September this year.   

Notes to Editor

Find out more about Listen Up Storytelling.

For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E:,, M: 07711 011239.