Many people who come through the doors of the Gold Coast’s public hospitals are familiar with the smiley faces and bright blue shirts of the volunteers who help direct people around the hospital and support patients on the wards and at clinical appointments.
However, that’s just one very public aspect of volunteering at Gold Coast Health. In addition to the 300 registered volunteers, there’s an army of around 150 extra people behind the scenes, helping patients with their lived experience or consumer advocacy.
These consumers have a loud voice in the way Gold Coast Health services are developed and delivered.
Gold Coast Health Board Chair says the volunteers and consumers are the backbone to our health service.
“They keep our services relevant and human-focussed,” said Mr Langdon.
“We have many excellent examples of services co-designed by consumers such as the Queensland-wide Pelvic Mesh Service which was developed by acknowledging the pain and distress caused to women who experienced complications after procedural complications,” he said.
The Pelvic Mesh Service at Varsity Day Hospital was designed collaboratively with consumers and clinicians with a focus on holistic care for women.
“Instead of just providing a clinical service to help with women’s physical symptoms, the voices of consumers extended the scope of this service, so it covered much more than surgical mesh removal.
“Consumer volunteers encouraged us to look at the whole problem, not just the medical and surgical options, so women are cared for holistically which includes medical, surgical and nursing treatment as well as non-surgical options like physiotherapy, social work support, chronic pain management and counselling.”
Mr Langdon said that is just one example of the difference made by volunteers and consumers in the constant improvement of services at Gold Coast Health.
“We have consumer representatives on every new-service planning committee and appreciate the experience that lived-experience gives to our decision-making process.
People with lived experience are also making a huge difference at the frontline of patient care.
“Past patients, play an invaluable role in the recovery of current-patients as lived experience peer workers, especially in the Emergency Department, Mental Health, Trauma rehabilitation and recovery,” said Mr Langdon.
Trauma nurse Matt Scott said having volunteers with lived experience makes his job easier.
“Whilst I have extensive experience in nursing care, I don’t have the experience of being a trauma patient,” said Mr Scott.
“These lived experience volunteers bring a message of hope and resilience to trauma survivors while we provide the highest level of medical and nursing care.”
David Bell is Lived Experience Volunteer with the Trauma Survivors Network at the Gold Coast University Hospital.
“I’m over the moon to be able to give back and help trauma survivors on their journeys and also including their families who are also experiencing a trauma of their own,” said Mr Bell.
Rickie Markham is a Mental health consumer who received care at the Gold Coast University Hospital last year and more recently as an outpatient.
“When I was first admitted, I wasn’t in a great place and was very unwell,” said Rickie.
“Part of my treatment and subsequent recovery was music therapy.”
“The music therapy helped me reflect on my feelings and inspired me to write a song, and to continue writing songs.
“Now I’m not only motivated to write more songs, but also to come back to the hospital as volunteer or joining the Mental Health Lived Experience Peer Workforce because I want to use my experience to help others with their recovery.”