All of Us: The Power of Community – Human Experience Week 2023 kicks off at Westmead Hospital – PART 1

Love, belonging and healing.

These are the cornerstones of this year’s NSW Health Human Experience Week; a week co-designed by NSW Health staff and consumers that promises to immerse attendees in new ideas, innovation, with best practice reinforced and new information introduced.

From May 1 to 5, the Division of Health System Strategy and Patient Experience, Local Health Districts, Speciality Health networks, agencies and pillars, staff and consumers are coming together to host in-person events, alongside a virtual program focusing on the importance of love, belonging and healing.

Studio 10 Reporter, Daniel Doody opened the significant calendar event today, 1 May, at Westmead Hospital, which was live streamed across the state.  

From 8:30am to 12:00pm, over 600 attendees and online viewers were moved by the powerful series of guests, performances and conversations, underpinned by key themes of multiculturalism and the impact of healthcare on the Stolen Generation.

This week was previously known as Patient Experience Week; this change reflects the renewed focus on the human-centred nature of healthcare.

Darug Nation Local Aboriginal woman, Erin Wilkins, opened the event with a Welcome to Country that reflected on the sensitivities and protocols required to cater to the needs of patients and staff from different cultural backgrounds to improve human experience and inclusion for all.

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) chief executive, Graeme Loy, conveyed his appreciation for the district to be hosting such a critical NSW Health event and the scope of partnerships that makes up human experience which includes consumers, clinicians, carers, their family members, and staff.

“Human experience is at the centre of everything we do and is inclusive of all the experiences that deliver care as well as those who support our patients,” said Graeme.

“This morning’s session is underpinned by the impact of healthcare on the Stolen Generation and multiculturalism, which is very important to us in western Sydney, as we have the largest First Nations population in the state.

We really feel that sense of responsibility in providing the care needed and work closely with our First Nations and Multicultural communities to ensure we are unique on how we deliver care.”

The chief executive was followed by a video message from NSW Health secretary Susan Pearce, and an address by chief experience officer Anne-Marie Hadley. Both women spoke to the “inextricable link” between staff and patients and the dual importance of clinical outcomes and experiences people have.  

Anne-Marie also took the opportunity to officially launch the first state-wide guide for engaging consumers, carers and families across NSW, “All of us: a guide to engaging consumers carers and communities across NSW Health” which aims to build on local frameworks.

“It’s a step-by-step guide on not only how to best engage carers but how to do it well,” said carer Jenni Smith, who was involved in the development of the guide.

Audiences were then wowed by award-winning actress, Sandy Greenwood, who performed three scenes from her critically acclaimed production, The Matriarch, which explores the strength and resilience of four Gumbaynggirr women, spanning over 100 years of Australian history. 

The powerful one-woman performance depicts and reflects on the traumatic events surrounding Sandy’s grandmother and having 14 children forcibly removed from her in the 1960s, Sandy a grandchild of the Stolen Generation.

Reflecting on the Stolen Generation, Daniel Doody interviewed Aboriginal Health Strategy acting district director, Belinda Cashman, whose mother was also part of the stolen generation.

They conversed about the health implications of being part of the stolen generation, such as not knowing one’s health profile. Daniel and Belinda also explored the importance of “closing the gap” and creating a more equitable space in healthcare.

“Health is the basis of everything we do and we need to work together and create strong partnerships to achieve better health outcomes,” said Belinda.

“At WSLHD, we’re currently hearing what Aboriginal people have to say in our communities; we’re looking at a new maternity model of care; creating advisory communities, holding staff network meetings and engaging in a variety of other programs that we offer to work together to close the gap.”

Following the theme of partnerships, Daniel Doody facilitated an in conversation with three WSLHD staff and consumers about the importance of empathetic care.

WSLHD Consumer Representative of eight years, Anne, has focused on constructively being a part of building more empathetic care for patients, carers and families.

She expressed, “people just want to be recognised and acknowledged. It’s not always about the big things – it can be as simple as a touch, a smile, a recognition of a shared experience”.  

Dr Faiza Wajahat is a physician with around 15 years of experience in healthcare management establishing patient centric, value-driven, outcome focused systems in public health.

She agreed with Anne’s sentiment saying, “no one walks into a hospital expecting miracles, but they do expect kindness”.

WSLHD Consumer Representative and advocate for co-designing the new Palliative Care ward at Auburn Hospital, Naglaa spoke to the importance of building trust, respect and putting yourself into another person’s shoes.

It’s important for patients and carers to remember that we’re all just human beings,” said Naglaa.  

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Human Experience Week.

There are four ways that staff, volunteers, patients, their families and carers, and community members can join in the celebrations this week. The Human Experience program can be viewed here.