Improving Student Health and Wellbeing

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Welcome back to the many students returning to our communities this month. As a community with four outstanding post-secondary institutions, we are fortunate to benefit from the infux of talent and perspective these students bring. Student health has been front and centre at the WWLHIN over the past number of years as we have worked with our partners to improve access to student health supports, particularly in mental health. 

This year, we developed a student mental health resource focused on “stopping the stigma” with information for students about free and easy access to mental health tools such as Big White Wall (bigwhitewall.ca). This online resource provides immediate access to a peer-support network for students to connect with. The WWLHIN had a booth during student orientation week at our institutions and as students signed up for activities, they also had the opportunity to learn about their local health system and the supports available to them off campus.

No one knows better what support students need than students themselves. This fall, we are creating a Student Health Advisory Committee as a subcommittee of our Patient and Family Advisory Committee. This group of local students will provide insight into how to improve student health, and will help design and test new digital health solutions for students.

Our Mental Health and Addiction nurses are also out in schools working with students and supporting them through the stressful transition to new schools, grades and other challenges. Working closely with schools and school boards, our nurses are an integral part of the school community. The feedback we receive from students about the value these nurses bring to them is incredibly powerful. Many students share how hopeless they felt and how these nurses believed in them when they couldn’t themselves.

While some students may only join our community for a short time, we hope they will stay a long time. By helping students become valued members of our community, engaging them in community activities and organizations, and supporting them with community resources, we can reduce the isolation some students feel and hopefully encourage them to choose Waterloo Wellington as their current and future home.

Change Day: A Simple But An Important Change In Communication Can Have A Lasting Impact

Guest Blog by the Chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Committee, Coreen Duke-Carroll

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My desire to become an advocate for patients and caregivers began in 2004 when I landed in the ER and was hospitalized with an unusual condition that required months of rehabilitation. Then in 2012, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.

From 2012 until my mother’s death in 2016, I was her primary caregiver. I helped to care for my mother through her cancer treatments and through the tragic loss of my sister in 2014. My sister lost her life at the hands of her husband whom had been struggling with mental illness and addictions for many years.

Caring for my mother while journeying through the loss of my sister was one of the most heart wrenching and difficult times of my life. The loving support of my family and friends was immeasurable, and the amazing support I received from health care professionals was commendable. Although, there were trying and exasperating times that left me feeling as though I wasn’t being heard or that my input carried little to no value in the eyes of the health providers. Through these experiences I became passionate about patient and caregiver advocacy.

Now part of the Waterloo Wellington LHIN’s Patient and Family Advisory Committee (PFAC), I am inspired by the LHIN’s desire to incorporate the patient perspective into processes, programming and campaigns. By making the simple and important change of incorporating the patient and caregiver voice into the broader functioning of the organization, I can already see it having an impact.

For example, the amazing Change Day campaign was in-part created by PFAC – learn more about the Change Day campaign here. The PFAC was actively engaged in the creation of the Waterloo Wellington LHIN’s Change Day pledge: to communicate effectively with patients, families and caregivers at all points of the continuum of care so that they feel valued.

Communication is so critical to the patient and family member, it allows them to feel empowered, to make an informed decision about their care or the care of a loved one, and to know that their voice is valued and honored by the care provider.  Clear and respectful communication allows for productive and cohesive working relationships, which ultimately improves the patient experience. Not only do patients and caregivers need to be given the space to speak, but health providers need to have the presence of mind to listen respectfully to what is being said.

Reimaging how communication could function better in a patient/caregiver/health provider relationship may seem like a large or onerous task, it’s the simple changes that can have the largest impact.

Therefore, I challenge every health provider to take a moment to think about how a simple change in communication could empower patients and caregivers so that they feel valued. Something as simple as listening to a caregiver or to allowing patients time to ask additional questions or sharing their concerns can improve care, reduce tension, and positively impacts the patient experience.

Simple changes in communication can lead to trusting, lasting and healthy relationships, which ultimately serves to improve the patient experience. Please consider joining the Waterloo Wellington LHIN Change Day campaign, make a pledge to improve patient care through effective communication, learn more here.

State of the Health System

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As the CEO for the local health system, I have the great privilege of working to improve the health of the 800,000 residents we serve across Waterloo Wellington.

Our health system is a community asset – one that has been built by the hard work of community leaders, health professionals, and through public funding over many years. The responsibility for overseeing and improving this vital community asset is not one I take lightly.

As investors and beneficiaries of the health system, our community deserves to know how it is advancing. This is why we are hosting our first State of the Health System Address. On September 29th, our community will come together to learn about the progress made in improving the local health system and the work still ahead to improve access, equity, and the patient experience.

I recently heard a story from one of our care coordinators, a social worker, who supports some of our most vulnerable residents with very complex health needs.

One of her patients was transitioning into palliative care and had an almost new hospital bed in their home they wanted to donate. Earlier that day, the care coordinator had heard from an occupational therapist about a patient who was sleeping on plywood without a mattress. This patient was blind and a recent double amputee who was suffering from not sleeping on a proper bed. It took some coordination – including a supportive landlord who offered to pick-up and move the bed – but that bed has changed the life of this patient.

Making the connection to provide a new bed for this patient isn’t a health procedure you’ll find in any textbook. However, it’s the one that will prevent a number of other health issues from occurring that would require additional services – not to mention the incredible impact on the patient’s quality of life.

These are the stories that inspire me as work to make it easier for residents to be healthy, and to get the care and support they need. I look forward to sharing more stories on September 29th.

Bruce

@brucelauckner

 

Starting with the Patient Experience

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True to our strategy, the past couple months have been focused on starting with the patient experience. To make meaningful improvements to the care experience for patients we need to listen directly to them. This is why our first initiative and announcement as a new organization was the launch of our Patient Experience Program.

As a foundational step, we are in the process of recruiting local residents to join our Patient and Family Advisory Committee. This committee of diverse patient and family members, representative of our community, will guide us in developing a Patient Experience Program that will embed the patient voice in everything we do within our organization, and across the local health system.

As we work to develop new ways to engage patients in their care and the design of their local health system, we also celebrated the implementation of a number of initiatives that have had an immediate positive impact on the patient experience.

For example, a new Rapid Recovery Therapy program helps patients go home from hospital sooner, allowing them to receive high-quality, intensive rehabilitative care in their home. The program increases capacity in the health system by freeing up rehabilitative care beds for patients with the most complex needs. Not only do patients achieve similar outcomes to their in-hospital peers, but they greatly appreciate being at home. A patient in the program shared “there was someone here every day, working with me and encouraging me. Being at home motivated me to do more. I was more active and felt more comfortable doing my exercises because I was in an environment that I knew”.

Not only has this delivered a better patient experience, but also improved the quality of care we provide. The Waterloo Wellington LHIN was recently recognized by the Ontario Stroke Network as a high performer and provincial leader in delivering high-quality stroke care. In particular, hospitals in Waterloo Wellington were the highest performers in all of Ontario for all but one of the metrics for stroke rehabilitation and reintegration. More residents in Waterloo Wellington receive care on a specialized stroke unit than anywhere else. Local residents go home faster, within target, and receive the highest number of minutes of in-home rehabilitation therapy.

As an organization, everything we do starts and ends with the patient experience. I continue to be impressed with the passion and dedication of our staff to their patients. As we increase opportunities to hear from patients directly and undertake more efforts to support clinicians and others on the front-line, patients will continue to benefit from tangible improvements in their care.

Bruce

@brucelauckner