We want the Timorese community to value and respect their local health centres. That respect will be based on more than the quality of the care provided but also upon the patient’s experience of how they were treated.
There’s an old expression that captures this well: “A person may forget what you told them, but they will not forget how you made them feel.”
First impressions count for a lot. Establishing triage systems in health centres enables nursing staff to make rapid assessments of how urgently a patient needs care. This means patients immediately feel that they are being taken seriously and that they’ll receive the care they need.
We’re conducting patient satisfaction surveys before and after implementation of the triage system to assess the impact on the patient experience. We know a satisfied patient will spread the word to friends and family. We want to help build the reputation of the health centres in the community so mothers feel confident to give birth there, to take their children for immunisation, or their uncle with suspected tuberculosis.
Feedback from the local community has been promising. One of our staff recently overheard a conversation on a local bus: a woman was proclaiming to anyone who would listen that the treatment she had received at the health centre was excellent, that the staff were professional and treated her well, and that ‘everyone’ should go there. We hope such a reputation spreads!
The Chefe (Chief) of one of the health centres regularly congratulates our Nurse Educator team on being professional, thanking us for working alongside his staff to implement the triage program. Pleasingly he expresses a sense of ownership of the program, stating “it is our program for our benefit”.
Of course not everyone is happy. Recently we witnessed a man becoming agitated when a young mother with an unwell child was ushered through to the doctor ahead of him. We were pleased to see that the most experienced nurse at the health centre stepped up to reassure the man and explain the principle of triage to the many waiting patients. This same nurse has regularly given feedback that the program has empowered him and has led to improved communication between nurses and their patients.
Establishing triage in community health centres is just one small step but we believe it’s a critical one, especially for building trust and confidence in health services among the community