Leaders in Allied Health: Meeting Hui-Yu

Last week, I had the wonderful experience of meeting an amazing social worker who put her vision into place at a rehabilitation centre in Northern Tasmania. Hui-Yu is more than a social worker, she is also a mother, and a campaigner for the greater good in healthcare. Yet, she is humble in the process. Part of the quiet revolution in healthcare. We need people like Hui-Yu who are happy to forge ahead with creative problem solving to craft their vision. If you are ever thinking of applying for a grant for your vision, keep reading!

Hui-Yu was awarded the Kate Scanlon Award through SARRAH. The Kate Scanlon Award was created in 2012, in memory of Kate Scanlon, who was a NAHSSS recipient. In November 2011, Kate Scanlon tragically lost her life in India when the train she was travelling in from Kolkata to the northern town of Dehradun, caught fire. Kate was going there to run a first-aid course and physiotherapy clinic along with other students. Twenty-one year old Kate from Tasmania was studying physiotherapy at Monash University and had been receiving the NAHSSS Undergraduate Scholarship since 2010. The Kate Scanlon Award provides Tasmanian scholarship recipients with an opportunity to pursue a project or activity that will improve allied health services for Tasmanians. 

Hui-Yu's vision was to incorporate creative arts into the goals of rehabilitation for patients at the John L Grove Rehabilitation Centre, which is a multidisciplinary service for longer-term rehabilitation patients. Hui-Yu’s vision was to create a 12-week pilot project to solve the problem of patients being disconnected from their homelife and their creative outlets. Providing ‘activities’ in any such centre is always an option but Hui-Yu’s vision encapsulated a program that actually did create patient engagement, not just hope for engagement.

Hui-Yu was four weeks into her pilot program when I met her, and her passion for the work had not wavered. I asked her how she did this. It is common to lose some momentum in a project when seeking funding, management support and ensuring all the boxes are ticked. Hui-Yu amazed me with her practical attitude to healthcare as we know it today. She knew well the barriers to her program - and these were completing obligations in her work as a social worker and funding restrictions. She spoke very openly about her concept that money in public healthcare is not going to 'just keep coming' and to have access to money that is present involves a lot of time and paperwork. How did she manage these? I was so keen to learn.

I hear often from others about the barriers to many things in healthcare being time and money. According to Hui-Yu, don’t let that stop us! Hui-Yu described the different factors that she felt contributed to the success of her program launch and the success of her application for the Kate Scanlon Award:

1. Get people on board with the vision. Staff and patients were both consulted about the program idea and asked for feedback. With a team on board and in support of a project, it is more likely to develop the wings it needs to get off the ground. Hui-Yu wanted to re-shape the vision of rehabilitation and bring back the creativity that had been lost. This was the vision she had shared with her colleagues and management.

2. Get out and about. Hui-Yu attended the Allied Health Symposium recently and made an effort to make contact with one of the speakers. This turned into an amazing collaboration that was the essential ingredient for getting the project started. Keep networking, meeting people and investing time into your own learning and community participation, as you will never know where this may take you.

3. Make contact with others who have been involved in similar projects. How did they do it? What are their recommendations? Where were their inefficiencies and how can you avoid them? Hui-Yu had met up with another organisation who had run a similar project in Hobart, and through this, a partnership was formed. This partnership resulted in a large administration efficiency developing with fast-tracking of the project staffing and funding when compared to the traditional fund seeking in public health. The partnership with them provided her with mentoring and consultancy for the project.

4. Be creative in securing money. Hui-Yui was very practical about the restrictions on funding for her project through traditional routes, and this was a realisation that was not uncommon to the team at the John L Grove centre. Hui-Yu had showed me on the tour of additions to the centre that had been implemented following staff fundraising. I was so excited to see the passion to improving healthcare wasn’t diminished in the centre by any barriers, people just surged ahead with their ideas and worked together to achieve many goals. It was very inspiring. Hui-Yu had already started to think about the end of her pilot project and how she could continue to fund the position of Art Health Worker that the grant had initially funded. Her ideas were very un-traditional in healthcare but innovative and creative themselves and I left wanting to get involved.

5. Be resourceful. Anyone who has worked on a budget for a project knows that money can be tight and initial budgets may not have been as accurate as the realisation of the cost of specific components. Hui-Yu was all over this! She was budget savvy! She talked of using creative arts resources that were available freely and designing her work around this. I saw in action the use of flowers for painting. The flowers had been brought in during a visit from a family member to one of the patients. Hui-Yu was a big believer that her budget did not need to blow out from expensive art supplies.

6. Be realistic with timelines. Hui-Yu was not over ambitious about what she could achieve. She set a 12-week timeline for her project which gave her a clear endpoint and a clear structure for evaluating the project.

My biggest question for Hui-Yu after meeting her, was how did she do it all? A mother, a social worker, a project developer, a grant recipient. How did she manage her time and how did she make it all look so easy!? I had expected the usual response that most people give which is to be organised, write to-do lists, limit distractions, reduce emails, and the like…But her answer was so much more simple than that and one that was very close to my heart. Her answer was not only simple but powerful.

Like money, there was no extra time in healthcare…If anything, time is more valuable at work than ever before. Hui-Yu believed that if people wanted to see their vision come to life, they needed to be willing to donate their time to do it. Donating their time outside their normal work hours, she felt, was part of a practitioners dedication to lifelong learning and was a way of also giving back. Waiting to be provided with the time and money to complete your project was likely to never happen in reality. Hui-Yu felt it was important as a professional and an individual to know what was important to the people you were helping but also what was important to yourself in the larger picture of life. Only by knowing this, do you gain the insight into what you need to do to achieve this and the effort you will need to contribute yourself.

Hui-Yu was an amazing dedicated individual – I am very thankful to meet someone with practical, simple strategies for problem-solving.

Leadership, Innovation

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