A new Journey Walker role at Western Health is supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, families and carers to improve health care outcomes and facilitate community care options.
Stepping into the first of its kind position for the health service is nurse and proud Wiradjuri woman, Ashleigh Vandenberg, who previously worked in the COVID wards and as a surgical nurse at Northern Health.
In her new role, which is also known as the Aboriginal Care Coordinator, Ashleigh will work within the Advice Coordination Expertise (ACE) Team inpatient team and Wilim Berrbang, Western Health's Aboriginal Health Unit, to create the most appropriate care plan for each patient.
Providing a positive and culturally safe experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients boosts their confidence and trust in the health service, and in turn, results in better health outcomes.
"The care and support provided is led by the patients, and the Journey Walker role highlights the importance of self-determination for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, giving them the opportunity to make their own healthcare choices and decisions," Ashleigh said.
One of the immediate benefits of having a Journey Walker is the extra time it allows with patients and their families, providing an opportunity to explain the importance of various models of care.
"For some of our patients, it can be working with them to trust the health service, and sometimes it's about encouraging them to stay for the duration of their care," she said.
"Engaging with the patient's family and ensuring they are on board with the care plan is particularly important, as their opinions or concerns are highly valued by the patient and the health care team," Ashleigh explains.
In the future, Ashleigh would like to see Journey Walker roles in Emergency Departments, which is often where the patient journey begins.
Ashleigh said one of the reasons that health services ask patients about their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, whether in the Emergency Departments or other settings, was to ensure more people can access services like the Journey Walker and other culturally appropriate care.
The Journey Walker role is one of the ways that Western Health and the team at Wilim Berrbang are working to improve the health of Indigenous Australians residing in the western suburbs.
Western Health is an official signatory to the National Close the Gap Statement of Intent. It is committed to equality of health access and outcomes and ensuring an equitable voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
If you would like to contact the Journey Walker please make an EMR referral via ACE team and select Journey Walker Care coordinator, or contact Ashleigh Vandenberg on: 0481 141 443.