Patient champion

Hannah's helping patients better understand what’s happening while they’re being treated on an adult mental health ward 

Meet Hannah Rowlands. She’s the RCN in Wales Health Care Support Worker (HCSW) of the Year and the first HCSW named as a quality improvement champion at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.

She’s taking practical steps to make improvements to her workplace and her dedication to her role and her patients shines through.

“There’s been so much I’ve wanted to change since I started working here just over a year ago,” she says. “Changes don’t have to be big to improve someone’s stay. For many of our patients it’s their first time on the ward and they don’t know what happens while they’re here.”

Changes don’t have to be big to improve someone’s stay

So Hannah took action. She’s been at the centre of work to design a new patient information leaflet which includes the times patients have their medications, teas, and important daily events. The leaflet also includes a map of the ward.

It’s aimed at the many patients who feel too anxious to ask for information and Hannah made sure the information included was what they needed by personally asking them what they thought would be helpful to know.

Hannah Rowlands

Working in a multidisciplinary team alongside other quality improvement champions, Hannah got her leaflet endorsed by a hospital psychologist, the head of nursing and occupational therapists. But patients and carers had the final say. 

Hannah says the team-working approach was invaluable – she has dyslexia so sought help with appropriate wording. But now, having been one of the main instigators of the project, she’s looking forward to using the leaflet on the ward in the new year.

This will be a big step forward. “You can give patients information but sometimes they forget due to their mental health difficulties. Having their own copy of the leaflet will give them the chance to digest the information in their own time,” she explains.

What’s next?

Hannah’s now working on plans for another leaflet to be given to patients when they’re discharged. 

“It will give advice on how to help prevent readmission – so will include information on gyms and support meetings. Many of our patients are lonely so it’s important to encourage them to get out. There’s a lot going on locally but a lot of it isn’t advertised,” she says.

Following in Hannah’s footsteps another HCSW has now joined the quality improvement champions group. Hannah says she will step back a little to let her colleague get more involved but will continue her work in the background.

Hannah Rowlands

“Going forward I’d love to improve the food on the ward. I’m always talking to my manager about this. The food we get is usually high in calories because it’s the same menu as the rest of the general hospital. 

But our patients put on weight easier – they’re less active in hospital and their medications can mean they gain weight. We’re having meetings with the kitchen now and ordering more salads.

“It’s not really in my role remit but I’m going to keep raising this as an issue because our patients need different nutrition. In society in general and in places like schools this is encouraged because it promotes a healthy lifestyle. My patients need that too.”

Award winner 

Hannah was recently named RCN in Wales Health Care Support Worker of the Year. Her nominations reflected the huge impact she’s had on her workplace since joining just over a year ago.  

“I’m keen to get patients involved in activities. They may be in for assessment and find it very different from being at home – I want them to get back to normality,” she says. “It’s important for me to see someone get well again and not need to come back.”

Her nominators described her as “dynamic and extremely patient-focused,” and “always looking for new ideas to improve the patients’ experience on the ward to assist in their recovery.” She was also singled out for praise for her regular positive feedback from patients and their relatives.   

Hannah Rowlands RCN in Wales HCSW of the Year 2018

Hannah (centre), with RCN in Wales Interim Director Helen Whyley (left) and Louise Casella, Director at the Open University in Wales (right).

Despite her glowing recommendations and having to endure an intense interview to get to the finals, Hannah says she was still surprised to have won. 

“On the night I was just clapping for everyone else and then they said my name. I nearly cried. I was shaking so much. But I was thrilled to be nominated,” she says. 

And the secret to her success? Perhaps it’s her personal motivation.

“People motivate me, I like helping them and I like to put a smile on someone’s face,” she says.

More information

Read more about the RCN in Wales Nurse of the Year awards.

Read about becoming a health care support worker.

Photographs by Stuart Fisher and Huw John.
Interview by Sharon Palfrey.

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