iRSM innovates by looking through patients' eyes

The Institute for Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine (iRSM) is renowned globally for its pioneering work to rebuild faces and restore function after head and neck cancer or facial trauma.

The institute serves patients whose needs are great, care pathways long and healing complex. “Treatment for the trauma is just the first step—we are involved in every step of their journey back to health,” says Jacqueline Hills, Registered Nurse, Clinical Care Manager, iRSM.

When demand for iRSM’s innovative treatment led to long waitlists, a new approach to listing and management was required. By looking through the eyes of the patient, the centre looked to change how the vulnerable are served.

A small team of caregivers met with each waitlisted patient in person or by telephone. “It took great courage to open the waitlist issue but it was the right thing to do. As we met with and listened to the patients and their families, we were humbled and then reassured,” says Jacqueline. “Themes emerged from the process: patients were understanding of a wait but paramount was their desire for improved communication during the wait and fairness in treatment selection."

The team then went further and formed a patient focus group. “That experience was heart-wrenching at times as patients shared the story of their treatment journey,” says Jacqueline. “The information we received was of immeasurable value and empowered us to make changes. Through this collaboration, a new care model is being implemented."

The centre has already achieved a significant reduction in wait times, from over five years to under two years. iRSM has also made other improvements, including holding open houses for patient orientation, organizing a patient-led support group and providing additional care at critical times.

“By giving a voice to the voiceless, we emphasized commitment to our mission. We give compassionate care and support to patients throughout their journey so they can embrace life again with rejuvenated bodies and spirits,” says Jacqueline.

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