Nangnak, Baban, Murrup
These days, cultural awareness is one of those phrases that echoes through the human resources department of just about every organisation in the country. In a healthcare setting, it has very real implications for patients and staff. Mercy Hospital for Womenï¿½s new Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers, Jodie Lovett and Jo Pappas, explain why.
ï¿½As Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers (AHLOs), our role is to support and advocate for all Aboriginal women and their families who come to the hospital. We give cultural support, make sure our patients feel culturally safe and cared for and, more broadly, bring cultural awareness to the hospital as a whole.
The AHLOs touch base with every Aboriginal patient at Mercy Hospital for Women. ï¿½The hospital runs an Aboriginal specific clinic here on Tuesdays,ï¿½ explains Jo. ï¿½We work closely with the clinical teams throughout the hospital to create an environment in which women feel comfortable coming in to meet us.ï¿½
ï¿½I think itï¿½s good for the women to see an Aboriginal face here,ï¿½ says Jodie. ï¿½Hospital settings havenï¿½t traditionally been comfortable places for Aboriginal women. It makes them feel safe to have us here.ï¿½
An important aspect of the AHLO role is having a secondary consultation with each Aboriginal patient after her initial appointment with her doctor. The consultation is an opportunity for Jodie and Jo to get to know each patient and check that she and her partner are comfortable with the care theyï¿½re receiving. ï¿½Each day weï¿½re building relationships with our community, getting to know the women, their families, their priorities and needs. We listen to their concerns and try to improve services where possible,ï¿½ says Jo.
Many Aboriginal women who present to the hospital also participate in the shared care program which connects them with a local health service ï¿½ the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service or the Banyule Community Health Centre ï¿½ enabling local care in a non clinical setting. ï¿½Women have the option of having pregnancy care with their local GP and their main appointments such as glucose tolerance tests and ultrasounds here at the hospital,ï¿½ explains Jodie. ï¿½We stay in touch with the women during the shared care process and also share necessary information with the medical staff at those clinics.ï¿½
Jo Pappas and Jodie Lovett support and advocate for Aboriginal women and families as Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers at Mercy Hospital for Women. |
Perhaps the most integral aspect of the AHLO role is ensuring Aboriginal women feel culturally safe in the hospital ï¿½ something many take for granted. ï¿½Thereï¿½s a long history of fear in the Aboriginal community, owing to the Stolen Generation,ï¿½ explains Jo. ï¿½This is still prevalent today, even among the younger women. Their mothers or grandmothers may have been part of the Stolen Generation and many still have the fear that in coming to a hospital, their baby might be taken away from them.
ï¿½Some of our women including young mums come from disadvantaged backgrounds or they might have drug and alcohol issues. Our role is to advocate for women and ensure that culturally appropriate, holistic care is provided that addresses social and emotional as well as medical issues. We also garner the support of relevant organisations to help families parent successfully.ï¿½
Both Jodie and Jo have spent the majority of their working lives supporting their local Aboriginal communities. ï¿½Iï¿½ve always identified as being Aboriginal and Iï¿½m proud of it,ï¿½ says Jo. ï¿½I enjoy being able to advocate for my community and care for these women and their partners in a safe and supportive environment.ï¿½
Published in Our Voice Winter 2013