What difference does a TJ Award make?

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Written by Liz Hill-Smith on 18 June 2014

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with the wonderful team of Renal (Kidney) Doctors, nurses, other health care professionals (HCP’s) and patients that scooped Gold and Silver Awards in the recent TJ Awards. This team are radically improving health outcomes for kidney patients. Their innovative project was developed in conjunction with patients and means that 90% of their regions 1,800 patients are now actively participating in their own haemodialysis treatment. The Award winning course basically helps nurses learn how to develop patients’ skills and confidence to take part in their own Dialysis care: i.e. plugging themselves via needles and lines into a complex looking machine which does the job their failed kidneys should be doing. It also gives participants strategies and support for leading change in their Renal units. 

One year since their two and half year Health Foundation grant had ended, I was keen to learn whether the team’s plans for ongoing spread and sustainability had borne fruit. In addition, I wanted to catch up with the wonderful people I had worked with most closely on the project (my role had been as their learning advisor and I had been funded by the Health Foundation as part of their grant.) I was also very intrigued to see and reflect on the impact that winning the TJ Awards had on the team and their project.

I did indeed see that the project had developed further momentum. Renal units from around the country were experimenting with their ideas, sending key people on the course, and contributing to the growing knowledge and understanding of key safety issues such as self-needling, as well as change leadership, and creating a real focus on patient empowerment and engagement. More patients, more doctors, more matrons, more HCP’s all round, more ‘big cheeses’ from the wider Renal and health world, were present at this year’s Learning Event – the third they had run. Many of the patients who had originally been involved were unable to attend; thankfully not through ill health, but because they had received transplants and their lives had moved on in many positive ways.

So, what difference had the award made? On reflection, I think it impacted in two important ways. It had given the team more confidence in the credibility of their course. To win a prestigious national award, (well, two!) clearly says “this is best practice”. They now know how good it really is. 

But of greater importance, in preparing, submitting and presenting for the award, it forced the team to reflect more deeply on why the course worked, how it wove its magic, and which elements were central to that credibility. 

In L&D language – I would articulate these as a focus on capacity over capability – i.e. capacity skills of thinking, synthesizing, empathising, leading, transforming and motivating, versus the technical capabilities of, for example, putting in needles or programming the machines. The built-in chance to reflect, to identify barriers, to problem-solve creatively around these, to experiment with ideas of learner empowerment, being learner-centric and the chance to explore different perspectives all contributed to this. The design allowed a month between modules and gave a chance for participants to ‘have a go’, then return to reflect.

I am immensely proud of this team and the profound cultural shift they are leading in Renal care. I know that there have been a great many personal and professional barriers placed in their way along their journey. They are in the NHS after all, and these are very challenging times. I was delighted to have the chance to talk to so many new explorers and participants of their project at their event. It is often rare to get this glimpse back into the life of a project, and this was a real privilege. I’m delighted to learn that the team are submitting a bid for the next round of Health Foundation funding to spread their work further. I wish them every success!

If you would like to learn more about their project, their website is here: http://www.shareddialysis-care.org.uk/

Liz Hill-Smith is a senior consultant at DPA http://www.dpacoms.com

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