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Turning passion into action to improve healthcare quality

Published 06/04/2022

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More than 600 Victorian health workers are trained in improvement science to drive better, safer healthcare.  But what is improvement science? 100,000 Lives Director Rebecca Reed tells us how to turn a passion for quality improvement into action.

You’d be hard pressed not to see the words ‘passionate about improving outcomes for patients’ in the opening lines of most aspiring clinicians job application letters, no matter what their speciality. I think it’s safe to say, despite my clinical rose-coloured glasses, all consumers of healthcare hope and expect this ‘passion’ looks more like a core value than an ‘aspiration’.

So what does living this value every day look like? For some it's making sure the direct care they provide is safe, person-centred and effective. For others, it is contributing to the invaluable evidence base that informs clinical care.

For another group (which includes me!) providing safe and effective care wasn’t always enough. Being a clinician also meant needing to improve the ways clinical care could be provided.  From my perspective, being able to do this was the deal breaker in shifting from aspiration to action.

Even as a junior clinician I was desperate to inform the way the system worked to help my colleagues and deliver the best possible care. I was often frustrated by not being able to influence others - I didn’t feel like I had the right tools or language and wasn’t sure if our ideas could make a difference.

So like many clinicians who see themselves as having two jobs - 'to do their work and improve the work they do' (credit to Dr Paul Batalden, Senior IHI Fellow) - I searched until I found the missing piece - the key to unlocking every clinician's ability to do their work and improve the work they do.

It's called quality improvement or QI. And WOW what a difference it made!

It's hard to express how much confidence understanding the basics of QI gave me to influence peers and those senior to me to test ideas that could improve outcomes for patients.

I'm excited to share QI with frontline clinicians, consumers and healthcare leaders, and to hand them the tools, knowledge and understanding to activate agency in improving outcomes with and for patients.

If I had to pick one thing for a clinician to understand, it would be PDSAs  (Plan-Do-Study-Act). It’s my favourite aspect of QI for its practicality and utility – it’s a game changer, particularly for clinicians. It highlights the natural way clinicians already problem solve, experiment and apply responsive learning.

I feel so wonderfully privileged to have been involved in spreading this amazing QI knowledge through our improvement initiatives or our formal training programs. The more we share this approach, the better we'll be placed to achieve outstanding healthcare for all Victorians, always. 

Rebecca Reed is Safer Care Victoria Director - 100,000 Lives

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