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  • Amy Maddison

Celebrate Kindness

Hi, my name is Tanya Hendry and I work as a Manager at EACH, a social and community health service. I have spent most of my career working in consumer participation and experience so have heard lots of stories about what makes a great and not so great experience. I've spent years passionately advocating about the absolute importance of kindness and compassion towards patients and clients at the health organisations I've worked at. However, recently I have more fully realised that it is just as essential to show kindness to each other in the workplace. Last year's Gathering of Kindness really highlighted this fact, especially the first day where lots of people shared their stories of where kindness wasn't shown in their workplaces and that sometimes this even led to adverse events for their patients. But ultimately, none of us want to work in an environment where we feel unsafe. We need to show kindness and compassion to our colleagues and I love that the Gathering of Kindness focuses on this. I am really looking forward to this year's Gathering because it will be taken to more places and more people. It's about continuing the conversation we started last year and I encourage you to consider how you can celebrate kindness in your workplace during that week.

Can you tell us a little bit about the work EACH does and how you incorporate kindness into that work?

EACH provides a range of health, disability, counselling and community mental health services across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, ACT and Tasmania. It is a very diverse organisation and employs around 1200 people. In early 2016 EACH held Innovation Labs across the country where service principles were co-designed with over 200 customers. There are 10 service principles with the overarching philosophy of 'We welcome you with empathy and hope.' This year staff have been involved in service principles orientation workshops. There are a lot of conversations about how we provide a welcoming, empathic and hopeful service not just to our external customers but to each other as staff also. I think continuing this conversation and implementing the service principles will have a big impact on how EACH incorporates kindness into the organisation.

How do you personally define the meaning of ‘kindness' in health care?

For me it's about taking the time to truly listen to what our patients, clients and their families and carers want and need and then doing what we can to respond to their wishes. And it's also about the little things which sometimes aren't so little to individuals - like introducing yourself, smiling, finding someone a warm blanket and giving people directions. I've spoken to hundreds of patients, clients and carers about their experience and it's that human touch that they crave and love.

Can you think of an example you’d be willing to share that you have witnessed personally as a patient or family member or in your professional life?

Yes - lots! Although we talk a lot about what it looks like when things go wrong in healthcare I've also been privileged to work with some incredibly kind and talented health professionals. In fact, I wanted to work in healthcare because when I was 18 I was in a bad car accident so had a lot of exposure to health professionals. Although not all my experiences and interactions were positive I still remember the incredible kindness of the nurses who treated me on the Children's Ward at Monash Hospital in 1997 - sometimes I wish I knew how to find them to say a giant thank-you. When I was scared, upset and vulnerable they really comforted me and took the time to listen and truly care.

Do you have any particular piece of writing, art or music or a quote that inspires or motivates you?

I use a wide-range of music as a self-care mechanism. Lately I've been reading a lot about compassionate leadership and thinking about what I can do to look after myself so I can look after others in my life. One thing I've started doing more is dancing as this makes me so happy! Just on Saturday night my husband and I put on soul records and danced around the loungeroom! And I've recently purchased a 90s mix that reminds me of my youth which energises me so I crank it up in the car and sing really loudly to it! When I'm feeling anxious or nervous about a work-related issue I sing "I have confidence" from the Sound of Music in my head. And my daughter and I are always singing Broadway numbers together (me badly, her excellently) which I think really helps our health and wellbeing.

If you could change one thing about health care now, what would it be?

Set kindness KPIs! Or at least decrease the funder-imposed KPIs that force healthcare staff to focus so much on administrative tasks that there's no time or energy left to focus on what led most people to healthcare in the first place - which is to show compassion and care for other human beings.

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