If we worked in a postal service we could stack parcels, and re-route them; keep them on hold; give them a number and sort them quickly. We could distribute them according to a set of rules that keep the system moving efficiently. Sometimes the odd parcel would break or go missing – but by and large (at least here in Australia) mail reaches its destination sooner or later. You can even pay extra and speed the whole process up.
But we don’t work in a postal service. People are not parcels.
When we move people from ward to ward to keep our bed numbers where we want them: we assume they are packages. When we make rules that aged care staff have to rotate through clients so they don’t become too emotionally attached: we treat clients as if they are boxes of unmanageable content. When we assign people a name according to their illness or injury ‘the NOF in bed 9’ : we slap a number on them like we would an express bag. When we neglect to tell our patients and clients who we are before we touch them, or take their history, or treat them : we are like postal workers happily moving parcels along a conveyer belt. It’s not sinister, it’s efficient. But it is efficiently disrespectful and damaging and dangerous.
But we do not work in a postal service and people are not parcels.
I know from reading through thousands of pledges made for Change Day Australia that the health and aged care workforce don’t want to work that way. They spoke up and said:
“I pledge to introduce myself to my patients each and every time. I will say ‘hello my name is…'”
“I’m pledging to seek out innovative ideas to improve patient’s experience of the health system.”
“I’m pledging to take time to address any concerns family members may have.”
“I pledge to communicate more thoroughly with patients/families to gain better insight into their goals.”
“I am pledging to take consideration of what matters to each patient most and provide customised person-centred care accordingly.”
There are 15,000 pledges just like this. I’m so glad I found these fifteen thousand people, let’s create a community of people in Australia who want to learn more about patient centred care.
I haven’t worked out exactly how we will connect and how we will support each other but finding each other is a great start. Pass this on to your colleagues who don’t work in a postal service and let’s see what we can build.