By Deb Letica, consumer representative
Life is an interesting journey that unfolds before us, sometimes leading us to opportunities that we never considered.
I have mostly enjoyed a good quality of health so far. It was not until I had some health issues such as Graves’ Disease, over prescribed thyroid medication, emergency appendicitis and discovering my much-loved younger brother had a rare genetic neurogenetic disease called a leukodystrophy that I became passionate about health.
My lived experience motivated me to become involved in the health sector, starting out as a member of the Consumer Advisory Council at my local hospital.
I attended Health Consumers’ Council consumer training to understand how the health system works and why my voice as a consumer/carer was important. I learnt how to use my experience to have a strong voice for systemic improvement in the health system.
From those small beginnings I have grown in confidence and contribute in a systemic way at a state level with the Department of Health (DoH), South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS), and WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), and on a national level in training health professionals.
I’ve learnt how the systems operate, the rigorous safety and quality standards, the NSQHC Standards, accreditation of our hospitals, and the importance of training our health professionals of the future. On a personal level I’ve learned how to better navigate the sector, how to advocate on my own behalf and on the behalf of people I care about.
Integrated care is important to me. I think that many vulnerable people fall through the gaps when they are the ones that can teach us so much more. Even when we are diagnosed with a chronic health issue trying to navigate the two systems when you’re not feeling too well can be overwhelming. In fact, it was a complete surprise to me to discover that integrated care wasn’t the norm!
Communication is one area that needs improving when it comes to consumer engagement. Consumers/carers just want CARE (Communicate, Access, Respect, Experience) for a good patient experience. The key to enabling this to happen is kindness. Kindness enables conversations to happen about things that matter to us, what’s important to us. Put us at the centre of the care team and please all communicate with each other!
Kindness doesn’t cost anything, but it can make a profound difference to others. It gives consumers and carers the confidence to ask questions, increase their understanding and health literacy, and it makes them partners in the planning of their care.
Kindness is life changing – it builds trust which then builds collaboration and partnerships. Kindness builds teams which then increases patient safety. It breaks down barriers and changes mindsets.
Kindness is the enabler for everything that matters to each of us.
I strongly encourage everyone to become involved in the health sector as a consumer/carer rep. It’s important to give back to our community, to make the world a better place for us all.
*This article was originally published in Health Matters