Staying flexible and open to change can have positive benefits

Linda Phillips, Community L.D. Nurse, Queen’s Nurse, Llanelli

It has been almost a year since the end of our time on the Patient’s First Programme “Improving the experience of acute hospital care for people with a learning disability within Hywel Dda University Health Board”. I can now look back on the experience with great satisfaction and pride, although it was not always like that when trying to find the right managers to influence, and when battling against deadlines!

There were many highlights along the way. One of the highlights was a stakeholders’ afternoon tea party. Here we were able to share the project not only with local people who have a learning disability and their carers, but also managers from the Health Board and members of the Welsh Government: Whilst also enjoying the most delicious cakes! Another highlight was being a finalist in the Nursing Times, Learning Disability Award. Although we did not win, we all had a fabulous time at the award ceremony, which all the project team members were able to enjoy.

However, for me the real highlight of our involvement in the programme was one of the ‘unintended outcomes’, one of the things we hadn’t initally planned. At one of the early focus groups, Angie, a lady who has a learning disability, showed an interest in the initiative and asked to get involved. With support she became one of the main trainers and co-facilitated learning sessions for the acute staff. As the project progressed, we could see Angie develop and grow in confidence before our eyes, at one point even teaching an entire national conference how to sign “hello my name is …”. With her new-found confidence, Angie has recently been elected to chair of a local advocacy service, something which she said she would never have previously considered.

It is hoped that our Patient’s First initiative will continue to improve the experience of acute hospital care for people with a learning disability, but we know for a fact that it has had an empowering effect on Angie, and through her infectious enthusiasm, a positive impact on the lives of all she comes into contact with.

You might also like to read Angie’s own view of the experience ‘How it felt to be involved in an innovation in practice‘.

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