News FLASH: western Sydney patients set to partner with doctors for better health outcomes

While doctors are typically thought of as scientists, caregivers or educators, many are not taught the basic leadership skills that can be vital to improving patient care.

To ensure doctors from Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) can become the best doctors and leaders they can be, they’re set to partner with patients and community members in the FLASH Leadership Program.

FLASH – or Fostering Leadership across Systems in Health – is a new and innovative program for up and coming specialists that will combine patient experience stories into their monthly interactive workshops and education sessions.

The use of anonymous patient stories – good or bad – will be used as learning cases within the course to assist doctors in understanding what matters to the ‘users’ of the health system.

Head and neck cancer survivor and patient advocate Julie McCrossin has already put her hand up to share her story to improve the health system.

“Patients and doctors listening to each other deeply and working together is the key to positive change in the health system,” Julie said. 

“I am delighted to take part in the FLASH program to help doctors become better leaders. 

“Having been a patient myself, I know firsthand what can be done!”

If you have an experience you want to share with the FLASH Leadership Program, please email WSLHD-Flash@health.nsw.gov.au

WSLHD Senior Staff Specialist Associate Professor Sandra Turner is leading the team in developing the program and strongly encourages all patients and community members to submit their stories.

“When a doctor (and other professionals) can be an effective leader and develop strong skills outside just being a ‘good doctor’, the health system keeps improving,” Sandra said.

“The inclusion of real patient stories on panels and as case studies will be a fantastic way to improve healthcare across our community.

“This program will enhance the leadership skills of our clinicians and allow our health organisation to become safe for patients and community members alike.”

Leadership in patient care can allow doctors to build strong and diverse teams, and improve communication between team members to ensure better results.

These skills will enable doctors to better engage patients and the public as users of the health system to maximise the benefits of the patient experience.

Sandra Turner says that the doctors enrolled in FLASH will come out with greater confidence and ability to be effective in leadership roles.

“Nearly all physicians take on significant leadership responsibilities over the course of their career, but unlike any other occupation where management skills are important, physicians are rarely taught how to lead,” Sandra said.

“We have designed FLASH to develop doctors’ skills and knowledge so they can build on these to become great leaders who can lead ongoing improvements in the health system.

“Doctors are trained to be good clinicians but are not explicitly taught how to be good leaders. FLASH will help them do this.”

This program was designed by WSLHD doctors in collaboration with the Research and Education Network (REN), the University of Sydney, Sydney Health Partners and Northern Sydney Local Health District.

If you are a doctor wanting to find out more, visit the FLASH website here.