When I started in Elective Surgery, we started an improvement project in the Orthopaedic Unit on our long waiting Cat 2 patients. Laura, who is our current manager, was seconded with CI at the time as a coach and guided us through the problem solving. That was still pretty early on in the CI presence in the hospital. We worked on what are we doing in our own processes in our unit that was slowing down clinic, making patients wait longer and looking at how we could streamline it to make sure there was a really clear process for anyone who came into the unit. That was my introduction into problem solving and I really loved it because I was new to the team. I could see a lot of things that didn’t make sense to me until I asked about it specifically. “Why” became one of my favourite questions. Being new, it also helped that I was able to say hang on that doesn’t really make sense to me – looking back, it was really good to have fresh eyes to get the team who’d been working in that area for some time to look elsewhere.
I was then told there were secondment positions in the CI team, so I put my hand up to be seconded to come and work with CI for a year. It’s funny because you go into it and you think “oh, I know what I am doing and I know how to problem solve and I understand the steps”, but to be someone who is a team member working through a project… it is very different to being a coach and thinking about the whole wider problem and how you teach and encourage staff to look at problems, rather than doing it yourself. As a nurse I think you’re very used to just doing it, just get in there and start going and put out spot fires and fix things. You don’t really start to think about what it is going to affect down the track and who, because you are more worried about here and now in front of you.
That’s probably one of my biggest learnings from being seconded into CI. I’ve certainly got the ability to see the bigger picture now, rather than that small little bit that affects me today or tomorrow or during my week. Another major thing I took away from my time in CI was that everyone communicates really differently and you can’t go into a situation expecting people to understand completely where you’re coming from, without thinking about how their brain works. Are they an analytical person or a visual person and how can you tailor what you are doing to get them to come on-board with you. I have also learnt that it takes time. When you are a CI coach, you are immersed in it and you become the expert and you know everything and you live and breathe it. But staff out in the organisation don’t necessarily know that, so it is a challenge to slow down and remind yourself that not everyone is on the same journey as you. Change can be slow, but it doesn’t mean that you are not going to get there.
The organisation thinks so differently now. When I started nursing here at St Vincent’s years ago and even when I started that first bit of improvement work, it wasn’t really common for us to say: here is the problem, let’s talk about it, find out the real cause of it and let’s fix it. Whereas now I feel like every day we are saying: hang on this isn’t right and it’s OK that it isn’t right and that means we can do something about it, no matter where we sit or work in the organisation, rather than continue on and just hope somehow we are lucky things just don’t fall over on us.