Vanessa Langan had not considered that she would be invited to sit at the table with health care decision makers from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA). However, on May 31, 2018, she attended her first quality improvement event and sat next to people she had only heard about.
“I was so nervous when I first got there,” Vanessa said. “I think they invited me because I speak my mind and I don’t hold back.” She laughs as she continues, “I’ve never had an opportunity like this before to use my voice, but they made me feel comfortable, which gave me the courage to make suggestions in front of the big guns.”
Vanessa Langan surrounded by her care team. L-R Dr. Press, Sherri Shumay, Vanessa Langan and Jamie Desjarlais
They wanted her opinion on the services being provided at the Stepping Stone Wellness Clinic in Kamsack. The clinic provides public health, primary care, mental health and treatment services for a variety of clients in Kamsack and surrounding area. “What are we missing,” she was asked. “Where can we improve?”
Vanessa admits that she had never been a part of something like this, “Before our first meeting I never thought I could have spoken my mind in front of a room full of important people.” She wasn’t certain what exactly she had been invited to at first, but she was happy that she said yes. “I’ve learned so much . . . I never realized how much the people who run Stepping Stone do in order to help us, and to make sure they are doing it in a way that is best for patients.”
“These events give us the opportunity to hear from patients, Elders and community partners,” said Jacquie Holzmann, executive director of Primary Health Care, Integrated Rural Health for the SHA. She emphasizes that the information they receive from patient representatives is invaluable, “Participating in events like this one helps us identify shared strengths, challenges and barriers that exist for clients and families.”
Now at her second event, Vanessa speaks up freely without any hesitation. When asked privately if she feels like it is worth it for her to attend the meetings she nods furiously, “I feel like they are really listening to me, they make me feel like I’m the most important person in the room. It is pretty amazing to know that they are putting the ideas that I have into place,” she says.
“There is an important intimacy between patient and provider at the Stepping Stone Wellness Clinic and there has always been informal patient involvement in the program,” said Gary Shepherd, director of Mental Health and Addiction Services for the SHA in Yorkton. “This involvement is formalized through events like these. Vanessa brings such a broad representative perspective and is very open about how much the clinic means to her. She has been very authentic and is here to truly make a difference, like the rest of us. We are all in different roles but trying to accomplish the same thing, which is to offer services in a way that best suits the patient.”
Vanessa hopes to be able to not only provide feedback on the services at Stepping Stone but also to help care providers to use a cultural lens when they think about the way they are delivering care. When asked how she feels about her involvement in this process she beams, “I am so proud of myself, that I am doing something to make things better for services that I use. But also to make sure that the service in our community is better for First Nations people.”
“It’s nice to know that by speaking up I’m helping to make Stepping Stone a better, more comfortable place.”
Vanessa Langan was a client representative for quality improvement work currently occurring at the Stepping Stone Wellness Clinic in the Kamsack Hospital.