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Blog: Zero seclusion and my project sponsor role

Mental health & addiction quality improvement
01 August 2019

Heather Casey is the Director of Nursing at Southern District Health Board and a project sponsor for Ngā Poutama: the mental health and addiction (MHA) quality improvement programme. In this blog, Heather reflects on her role in supporting the programme’s aspirational goal of zero seclusion.

Did I know what the role of a Health Quality & Safety Commission (the Commission) project sponsor was when it was first mentioned to me – no! Reading the information we were given about the different project roles was really helpful and a good starting point. The sponsor is someone in a leadership role in the services and also participating in the MHA quality improvement programme. I volunteered for this role as the project was an area where I firmly believed we could make a difference to the quality of inpatient support and inpatient staff job satisfaction.

Part of my existing director of nursing leadership role is leading, coaching and mentoring so the new role wasn’t entirely foreign to me. Having a good understanding of the project being sponsored was a good starting point and I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how to progress zero seclusion. This is a strategic priority for the Ngā Poutama MHA quality improvement programme. We are committed to eliminating the seclusion of consumers/tangata whaiora. There is significant evidence on the Commission website of the harmful outcomes associated with seclusion use both for consumers and staff. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2014 examination observed:

  1. hellip; [NZ] continues to allow the use of seclusion and restraints in psychiatric hospitals. Although there has been a decline in this practice, the situation is not satisfactory
  2. The Committee recommends that immediate steps be taken to eliminate the use of seclusion and restraints.

I think getting the right people on the project group is key and realising this may change over time, depending on what stage the methodology is at. Staying focused and positive have served our project team well (I think!) – as well as always supporting, encouraging and providing feedback.

Not being immersed in the day-to-day work of the project, allows me to stand back and see the milestones with some objectivity and with the end goal in mind. One of my main roles is problem solving. I meet for 30 minutes each week with the project lead and the quality improvement facilitator. The project lead manages the project and usually has subject matter expertise or project expertise. The quality improvement facilitator has the expertise around quality improvement methodology. The meetings are in our diaries and usually only last 15 minutes, but they keep us all on track.

The other aspect of the role is ensuring that everyone is well informed. This includes the other members of the mental health management and leadership team and our DHB executive. Having Commission projects on every agenda seems to be a good prompt. The other side of this is ensuring the project teams are well informed and have all the information I have. After all, along with many others, they are working and achieving good progress toward the goal of zero seclusion.

Author: Heather Casey, Director of Nursing at Southern District Health Board

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