Being nominated as a Champion by my peers was a real honour. I don’t know of any other initiative in the HSE where your colleagues nominate you. My role as a Champion ties-in strongly with my work in UL Hospitals Group Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service, (PALS). In a nutshell, that translates to “what can we do to make this person’s experience as good as it can be during their time in hospital”. Three years ago I worked on establishing the service and I honestly could not imagine our hospitals without it.
I would describe Bootcamp as totally different. It was very much around acknowledging who we are, what we brought to the table and how do we actually spread the behaviours and do it differently. It was very different, very invigorating, very powerful. I learned that the nine behaviours were developed by reviewing staff and patient and service user feedback, by reviewing HSE policies and procedures and that they were tested with staff and patients and service users. As a patient advocate, the inclusion of patients and service users in their development was very important to me.
My days are hugely varied, and no two are ever the same. In the mornings, I check my emails and phone for any messages which may need urgent attention from overnight. I deliver PALS volunteer induction training for the morning with input from colleagues in other departments. I oversee the PALS volunteer service in UL Hospitals Group. We have over 40 volunteers whose main role is way-finding, bringing people to the various clinics and wards in the hospitals. They also volunteer to chat with patients in the wards in a befriender role, and gather feedback about their experience. People can be worried and anxious coming to hospital and the role of the volunteers is invaluable to make them feel looked after from the minute they walk in the door. The PALS volunteers are the most wonderful group of people and enhance the hospital experience so much.
My role is very reactive and can change depending on the calls I receive from patients, families or staff. When a person is ill and in hospital, it can be a very vulnerable and worrying time for both them and their families. They may need support to understand their medical condition or treatment options and plans. They may also need support if they are not happy with aspects of their care. They may need me to link with the relevant staff, represent their concerns, facilitate family meetings and ensure that concerns and queries are recognised and responded to through our culture of Open Disclosure.
As well as having a reactive role to daily events, I’m also actively involved in trying to improve patient’s experience. An afternoon might involve working with colleagues, improving patient communication through developing leaflets or providing noticeboards on the wards, running education sessions with staff, facilitating reflective practise sessions with students, or learning from patient experiences through Values in Action to name but a few.
Working in an acute hospital setting is a busy and challenging environment. There is a responsibility on us all, both staff and patients, to work together so that patients are empowered to manage their own conditions and be expert patients and have the best possible hospital experience. After all, we are people working with people, and that human connection is so important. When I get the opportunity at lunchtimes, I try to go for a quiet walk around the block to clear my head.
We’re doing this already
I understand completely when I hear colleagues saying we’re doing this already, when they learn about the nine behaviours. The PALS service volunteers certainly put themselves in other people’s shoes, are aware that their actions impact on how others feel and do extra kind things. The behaviours provide a framework for excellence in how interactions with each other and our patients can be improved. I try to be mindful of these behaviours throughout my day so that everyone around me can benefit from my actions. As a Champion in UL Hospitals Group my focus is on encouraging more colleagues to live the behaviours so we can create a better workplace and improve the experience of our patients.
Whilst the hospital setting is extremely busy and fast-paced, it is very rewarding. The relationships I have with colleagues, patients and families is of vital importance. The PALS role makes a difference- we have a lot done but there is a lot more to do… but that’s for tomorrow!
Values in Action gives credibility to the softer skills and if anything, it has helped me in my role. Being a Champion does not take up a lot of my time. This had been a concern for me. If anything I see that it’s easy to incorporate the behaviours into my role.
Miriam McCarthy, Manager, Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service UL Hospitals Group