Interviews underway to ensure all patients, clients and residents receive dignified care
Supporting a culture of inclusivity, equity and compassion within the Winnipeg health region
By Bobbi-Jo Stanley
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, November 20, 2023
Chris Salstrom works as a Spiritual Health Practitioner at Riverview Health Centre, but she also has lived experience as a patient in the Manitoba healthcare system. That's why she volunteered to be a patient partner for the WRHA's Dignity in Care project.
"Both professionally and personally this is something where I've encountered the positive and not so positive and I wanted to be able to be a part of sharing my experiences and hoping that I can help make the system a little better," says Salstrom.
The Dignity in Care project is still very much in the early stages of development. Over the past number of months, the project team has been in what it calls the listening phase, learning about what dignity in care means to different people. "We are hearing from people about their stories of care, their experiences with dignity and compassion, what that looks like and feels like to them," says Trish Roche, WRHA patient and family engagement consultant. The team interviewed 30 different people, including patients and their family members, healthcare providers, leaders from acute care, community care and continuing care as well as community organizations and other subject matter experts.
The recently published strategic plan, which maps out specific priorities for the next five years, calls the WRHA to ensure it is providing the best care to everyone it serves, and that includes designing a program to involve patients and family in health care delivery and ensure culturally appropriate care is offered. "We want to create a culture where dignity, trust and compassion are cultivated," says Roche. That means moving away from treating patients, clients and residents how we want to be treated, and towards treating them how they want to be treated.
Salstrom has a rare genetic disease that took 53 years to diagnose. She says while she understands that it took so long to diagnose, what didn't have to happen was for her to be dismissed along the way in her patient journey. "I want to fight for dignified care for people who have illnesses such as mine. Or just for other people who are having difficulty in care because they come from marginalized parts of society that may not be taken as seriously."
Now that the Dignity in Care project team has completed its first round of consultations, it will be working on a definition of "Dignity in Care" for the Winnipeg Health Region. Then, according to Roche, the team will look at developing tools and resources designed by health care professionals, patients and the public, to make it so that everyone can have compassionate and dignified interactions at every stage of the care process.
But it won't end there. The team will continue to have ongoing input and collaboration with patients, clients and residents. "I don't see there really being an end to this project. There's always opportunities to improve and there's really no limitations to what we can do to improve dignity and compassion in our health care system," says Roche.
"This is something that I am incredibly passionate about both personally and professionally," says Salstrom. "As a health care professional, I have seen people with dementia and other illnesses which make verbalization so difficult ignored or dismissed. I am passionate for them and those like them so that everyone in the healthcare system can be given dignity in care. Nobody should be dismissed. Everyone has feelings that should be honoured no matter their diagnosis.