When I first joined the HSE or the Southern Health Board as it was back then, I really had no idea of the range of health services that we provided. I had no idea of the amount of people that worked in the Health Board and hadn’t a clue at all about the range and type of work that was carried out by all of us.
I was lucky, and maybe unlucky, to start my HSE career in Communications. The Press Office provided me with a superb insight into all areas of the service. I became aware of the huge efforts, dedication and professionalism of staff from all walks of life. From porters in Castletownbere Community Hospital, to consultants at Cork University Hospital. I have been fortunate to encounter a vast range of good people. From bright minded diligent clerical officers in payroll to genius tech wizards in IT. The one thing that connected all of us was our dedication to the health of people and to support and help each other.
Of course there were times when IT complained about Finance, Estates whinged about the Acute Services and they all wondered did Communications just sit around all day reading newspapers and listening to the radio! But when services needed to be delivered both internally and externally, we all worked together. We learned from each other and sometimes we even thanked each other (but that was rare enough).
But working in the Press Office I was constantly hearing and reading the opposite. I was being told of the wasteful, lazy staff working in our health services. I was being asked by, what I considered intelligent friends and relations, what exactly we did in the health service and was it true that we all finished every Friday at 2 pm, got 60 days holidays, free medical cards and were encouraged not to do much by our managers or it would show them up. (They obviously never met my manager!!!)
I was amazed at this, saddened and at times embarrassed. I laughed it off at first and I have to say with a little shame, fed the beast at times by agreeing that there were some that might be abusing the system ......while really not knowing anyone that was.
Being part of something new
The London Olympics in 2012 was a real eye opener for me. While we Irish were engaged in the national sport of knocking and criticising our public Health Service, the British were paying a glowing tribute to their beloved NHS in front of a global audience of millions. Why was that? What made us so different, why were we being opened to ridicule? Why were we not all defending and praising the work that we do? Our nurses, managers, doctors, admin staff, technicians, architects, PHNs, accountants, porters, physios and everyone else are no different to those in the NHS. So why was it that we had less pride in each other, in ourselves?
A lot of it had to do with us. We were accepting the negative view of the HSE that was being portrayed by the media and that was trickling down into our communities and our homes. We were content to let our politicians bash us. We let any daft comment from ill-informed people about how the HSE was unmanageable and that there were loads of people in offices doing nothing since the HSE was formed.
We all knew this to be untrue but we didn’t stand up for ourselves. We didn’t challenge these behaviours from our public representatives, the media, even our colleagues, who continued to criticise other services and departments. A lot of us were cynical, selfish, isolated, vulnerable, unappreciated and frankly a little lost.
Change is coming
We needed to change. I needed to change. We couldn’t continue this way. No amount of press coverage or the odd positive story seeping into the media was going to do it. When Values in Action came about I saw it as an ideal way to share, change and become part of something different.
I know my colleagues work hard. And the more people I meet, the more amazed I am at their dedication. I meet people who are so passionate about what they do. I meet those who live and breathe the service that they are working in. I meet committed staff who provide a top class service for every single person in this country. So instead of sowing any seeds of doubt in people’s minds about what we do, I defend my co-workers, the organisation I work for and my own contribution to the HSE, to my friends, family and anybody else who is unfortunate enough to raise their eyes up to heaven or tut tut at any mention of the HSE.
Through Values in Action we are sharing the stories of the fabulous work that is happening across the country. We are changing the way we interact with each other. We are becoming kinder. We are helping each other. We are becoming more aware of the pressures we put ourselves and others under and addressing these issues. We are part of this staff movement that is making the HSE a better place to work, a better place to deliver services and a place where we all feel that we were making a difference.
Values in Action is never going to change the media’s impression of us, but adopting the 9 behaviours will change the way we see each other. I'm also confident that it will change the way those close to me view the HSE and that’s good enough for me. If we can adopt these behaviours and spread them throughout the HSE we will make a real difference.
I can see a real difference already even in the few months that I’ve been involved in Values in Action as a champion. I’ve seen my colleagues share stories about all the good things that are happening within the HSE and the amazing people in this organisation. We are now proud to tell people where we work and of the work we do. We stand up for our colleagues and our service.
Don’t worry, I haven’t been brainwashed nor have I been made ignore the things that are wrong with the HSE. Some may well continue or they may reduce through Values in Action. The world is imperfect and people are people and some around us will resist and fight what we are trying to do but I can’t let that stop what I want to do. Barak Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
I believe Values in Action is our time and our way to effect change. If we believe in this and give it our very best then I am confident that we will see a huge change in all that we do and how we do it.
National Communications @Coachfordnews