My Journey: Re-imagining Healthcare!
Changing the game in healthcare: an employee’s perspective.
When it came to developing my career in allied health, I felt as though I’d tried it all. Like most fledgling health professionals, I started in placement, did work experience, took up volunteering, eventually got work as a sole trader, paid rent as a business within a business, and finally, I now work as an employee within a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team at Upwell Health Collective. It’s safe to say that I’ve seen my share of allied health workplaces!
Upwell’s overarching purpose is to help people “reimagine their healthcare”, and as I approach my one year anniversary of working here, I am reflective of the different ways that I have reimagined healthcare from the practitioner perspective as well.
What wasn’t working
One thing that genuinely surprised me when I started working in healthcare was the lack of communication between practitioners. It was either absent, or highly selective – for example, some practitioners would communicate with only one member of the treating team, and overlooked the others. To see the look of frustration on a patient’s face as they had to tell their story again, or to hear the words “they were meant to write you a letter…”, was so disappointing for everyone involved.
I’m not sure whether this communication void was due to a lack of time, priority or general consideration for the patient journey, but I knew things could be done differently. At times there was a culture of ‘get your work done and go’, as was the nature of paying rental on a room within a clinic. Some days I felt like nobody even noticed if I was there!
An inspiring environment
When I first stepped into Upwell, the welcoming energy was tangible. Although there is a time and place for sterile, clinical environments; I don’t believe allied health needs to be one of them. For patients and staff members alike, the design of the physical space at Upwell inspires ideas and possibilities… if I could sum it up in a word, it would be “hope”.
For the first time in a long time, I genuinely looked forward to coming to work. The team’s collective embrace and thorough orientation processes allowed me to feel like part of the big picture straight away. I started to change the way I saw patients and re-examined my role in their healthcare experience.
I noticed that my recommendations and treatment planning became more authentic and patient-centred, because I knew that people actually loved coming to the clinic – I didn’t feel as though they were dragging their feet. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in more outcomes being achieved, more people telling their friends about us, helping more people… and so the positive spiral continued!
A sense of identity
Due to the magic of social media, people who I haven’t seen for a long time always know that I work at Upwell. I feel truly proud of my role and the impact that we are having in the community. Much like the way people align with brands and businesses which reflect who they want to be, I knew from the start that Upwell was a movement that I wanted to somehow be a part of.
This has resulted in everything in life feeling a little easier. When I sit down to write GP letters, I am able to imagine the doctor reading it and the way that they instantly know who Team Upwell is and what we are about. When I attend industry events, I get excited about sharing my experiences. Through online channels, I can reach even more people with blogs and videos. This ultimately all ties in with my personal vision, which is to help as many people as possible lead an active life.
Values – more than just a poster on the wall
I remember the days of going for hospital jobs and trying to memorise the organisational values off by heart, as I thought this might come across as impressive (I never actually got asked to recite them!). Recently at Upwell we had a values workshop, where we drilled down on the four values which would guide us as both professionals and as people.
Now when I read the Upwell values, I remember the in depth conversations and stories we shared to get to them. They don’t feel contrived or constrictive – they are as dynamic and innovative as we are. We are constantly encouraged to celebrate examples of our values being lived, and when our expectation of each other are being exceeded.
We also acknowledge that each of us comes to work with our own personal “why”, which blends seamlessly into Upwell’s vision. We get excited about outcomes and milestones of both staff and patients, and we aren’t afraid to be uniquely ourselves.
The retreat that changed the game
Team Upwell has recently returned from our inaugural team retreat in the Otway Ranges. Wow! What a life-changing experience. The weekend away clearly reinforced why we are all here at Upwell, and it is for much more than just a job. We are here to re-imagine healthcare in Australia and change the patient/client experience to ensure the best health outcomes possible. To do that, we first must all learn how to best operate as a collaborative unit and align on our culture and values. We utilised a profound technique that our ambassador and mentor Mick Malthouse taught us called highlights & hardships. In this activity we deeply explored each others life journey to better understand where we had all come from to end up where we are, together at this point in time.
This activity, combined with our tree tops adventure day, master-chef team challenge and rain-forest hike, has allowed us to connect on such a deep level and has certainly improved how mindful we are of our team mate’s backgrounds and life-journeys. As a consequence we already feel our collaborative approach to patient/client care has gone to a new level and our outcomes are even better as a result.
Re-enforcing our Upwell values was another key outcome from the team retreat.
The values that we built as a team include:
- Be the collective (Collaboration)
- Rethink the square (Innovation)
- Make an impact (Community)
- Step up & own it (Leadership)
With these values firmly ingrained in everything we do at Upwell, we have clear expectations of one-another and a clear pathway to decision making. Values-based decision making is by far the most powerful way to build an amazing collaborative culture and it is a privileged to be trusted and given autonomy within the bounds of our team values.
When company growth leads to personal growth
I would say that the only thing worse than having no professional development program in place is having one where you sit and “tick-the-box” for formalities. In a previous job, I was told to ignore the “Exceeds Expectations” column of my annual review paperwork because “nobody should be exceeding the expectations of their role”. Talk about inspiring… not!
Our learning and development plans at Upwell are completely tailored to our needs and reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that we don’t fall off the wagon. It has been refreshing to sit down and identify areas that I actually want to work on, rather than being contorted into a standardised list of attributes. As a result, I have taken on some huge opportunities which I could have easily shied away from, all because I knew it was written down in my plan.
There is a strong culture of developing us as well-rounded people, not just practitioners, which of course has a flow on effect to the care that we give and what we can achieve. I feel both mentored and well-managed, and at the same time, autonomous and empowered. My first year at Upwell has been the best year yet – I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Thanks for reading! 🙂
Written by – Jennifer Smallridge – AEP