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Gaining perspectives on our Northern health system

I have often told my children as they were growing up that life is about relationships. Building good partnerships is key to success on both a personal and professional level.
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I have often told my children as they were growing up that life is about relationships.

Building good partnerships is key to success on both a personal and professional level.

I have a four-legged partner with whom I have a great relationship — my horse Owen (and for you fellow horse lovers, Owen is 18.3 hands).

Owen is the biggest horse in the barn, and I must admit, when I first set eyes on him, I thought, “Wow, I’m going to be really high off the ground.” But as I climbed into the saddle and witnessed his kind and gentle nature, I knew I could trust him and that we were meant to be partners.

As we say goodbye to 2012, I thought I would share a little advice that Owen has given me throughout the course of our relationship

-Keep your eyes up and look to where you want to go.
In my professional life, I spend a lot of time talking to people about the need for change in our health-care system. The subject of change can be difficult for some people who find comfort in keeping things the same — even if they aren’t working quite right. But, just like when I’m riding, I keep my eyes focused on where we need to be in health care and it carries me through difficult conversations. I know in my heart that a less fragmented system, one that has the needs of people and patients at the centre, and a system with more options for care in community, is a system we will all find comfort in.

-Sometimes you need to loosen the reins.
Every now and then, I have to let Owen go for a good gallop across the field to burn off some energy. In health care, we all work under pressure whether you’re a personal support worker trying to get everyone to the dining room in time to eat while the food’s still hot or a hospital CEO working to balance your budget. We all need to find healthy ways to let this pressure off whether it’s going for a walk or having a good laugh with friends.

-Keep the burrs from under your saddle.
Sometimes the devil is in the details. I can tell you, if you miss a burr under your saddle you will be in for a rough ride! In health care, we all have to think long and hard about the potential burrs and keep an eye out for them. In a hospital setting, it could be hand washing — a small task that can save lives if we remain vigilant. Each health-care sector and organization has its own burr to watch out for. What’s yours?

-Take life’s hurdles in stride.
Health care is like other fields … things never go completely smoothly. Often a gap will surface. Owen can jump over or swerve around uneven terrain in a flash. We need to be nimble as well and remember the importance of moving forward rather than panicking and making mistakes.
-Carry your friends when they need it.
OK, I can’t carry Owen. He does all the physical carrying in our relationship. But my job is to steer and make the decisions that will keep us both safe, so in a sense I do some of the carrying work as well. It’s important to recognize that when health-care partners come to the table to collaborate on a project, we all bring strengths and are able to contribute positively in different ways. A larger organization may have more administrative staff who can handle the book keeping, while a smaller one, brings invaluable experience with clients in the field. Working together means shouldering different loads and always learning from one another.

I know I am looking forward to forging through the snowy trails on Owen and working with you in 2013 as we continue to forge ahead blazing a new trail for health care.

Have a happy and safe holiday season.

Louise Paquette is the CEO of the North East Local Health Integration Network.


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