The 5th of July 2019 was a very memorable day.
It was my birthday and it started well. Calls and texts with family and friends and dinner plans that night. In between that I got on with the day’s work in our Sydney office, I had cake with my team and by 4pm I was in the emergency department of my local public hospital being admitted.
Bad cake? No. As it turns out something considerably more serious and at the point of diagnosis potentially life threatening, certainly life changing. I won’t go in to detail other than to say many of my colleagues in healthcare would know having the Whipple Procedure is pretty serious stuff.
To be honest I had never heard of that particular procedure before and bizarrely when the surgeon said to me I needed to have it I can reminder as clear as day thinking to myself, that name doesn’t sound too bad? We hadn’t got into the detail at that point!
Up until that point I have been fortunate to have enjoyed good health, aside from the odd fall from my mountain bike or horse that led to a broken bone. Off to hospital, patched up, out the door, back into it. On reflection I realise now I never even regarded myself as a patient on those occasions, as odd as that may sound.
“I never even regarded myself as a patient. That all changed on the 5th of July… I had most definitely become the patient.”
That all changed on the 5th of July. From that date forward I was in ICU and then on the ward where I had most definitely become the patient. All up in hospital for nearly a month and now on discharge in that cycle of diminishing follow up appointments with the surgeon, endocrinologist and gastroenterologist.
It has been four years since I have worked directly in healthcare. My role here at the HardyGroup is more a case of partnering from the periphery and one of the things I love is facilitating a few of our executive learning sets because I get to work with some of Australia and New Zealand’s fantastic leaders, who despite the pressure of managing through an increasingly challenging and complex environment, really care about patients receiving great care and treatment.
Having a recent stint in hospital has been a good reminder that all of the things espoused in the patient’s code of rights can really seem like just a set of words. Right up until the point you become one. They take on quite a different meaning then.
I am going in to meet the CEO soon of the health network whose services I accessed and I will be able to recount my ‘patient’ experience as one that easily met the code – upheld by staff right across the spectrum too, be they cleaning, clerical, clinical, you name it.
But actually what I will be even happier to say is I was treated as a person. Sound a bit fluffy?
Patient centred care gets you a long way down the road doesn’t it. Person centred care, or some other more contemporary phrase to explain it, adds a really important dimension. People look at you when they are talking, not at the test results. They look at you when they ask questions, not at the note pad they’re intending to jot the answer down on. And they look at you when you ask questions of them, confirming they are listening. In many ways person centred care is also a reminder to yourself, particularly when you’re feeling incapacitated, that you’re an expert too – in you.
I was lucky. The surgery was assessed as curative and I have made a good and quick recovery and the only reason I am sharing something so private is because I do have the privilege of working with these really fantastic executives and in the busyness of their day, if they happened to read this, in my own small way I am saying you’re right guys – this stuff really matters.