April 5, 2022

Partnering with consumers: Sarah and Maxine

Sarah Charles, Quality and Medication Safety Lead Pharmacist and Maxine Vu, Consumer, are working together on the important topic of medication safety. Both have a flexible approach to making things work, and Maxine’s help has been especially appreciated during the last year and a half, and her fitting in to assist Northern Health whilst raising her two young children through lockdowns.

We’ve had a chat with Maxine and Sarah to find out what helps them work well together, how they make a difference and what feels rewarding.

How have the two of you collaborated together?

Sarah: Maxine commenced as a consumer representative on the Medication Safety Committee just before the COVID-19 pandemic started. Since then, we have been touching base regularly via phone or email. Maxine has been a great help for anything Medication Safety related, with which consumer input is of great benefit.

Maxine: Sarah was assigned as my buddy from Northern Health’s Medication Safety Committee to walk me through the meetings and focus areas requiring consumer input.

Please describe some of the projects you worked on.

Sarah: Maxine has been a valuable resource in reviewing a lot of our patient information related to particular medications or medical conditions. We also recently did a large project to add a ‘reason for use’ (indications) section to the medications list, with which we first focused on the top 100 dispensed medications. She was a great help reviewing the options to ensure what we chose was most relevant and patient friendly.

Maxine: As a consumer of Northern Health from a CALD background and being employed locally in disability services, I was able to bring a different perspective on the use of medications in the community, and the importance of people understanding the reason they have been prescribed medications. I was mindful of simple language that was able to be easily understood by people of CALD backgrounds and different literacy levels.

Maxine, could you please give us a bit of a background of your involvement as a consumer at Northern Health?

Maxine: I initially decided to join the committee as I wanted a way to personally contribute to my local community outside of professional employment and be able to influence positive outcomes for all stakeholders.

As Sarah touched on, I commenced just before the pandemic started and therefore had to adapt the way that I contributed to the committee. Amongst working from home, homeschooling and being locked down, I found it difficult to participate in the virtual committee meetings monthly and discussed with Sarah being able to contribute my feedback flexibly via email/phone calls instead. I found this has worked well, as it has given me more time to reflect on my responses on the key areas requiring consumer input, whereas in a meeting you may not necessarily have an answer to a question when put on the spot.

Sarah, how has consumer participation helped your work?

Sarah: Maxine is such a great help, she always provides really great feedback from a different perspective and is really responsive and willing to help. We recently had a conversation around how she has found being a consumer representative at Northern Health, including both what she has liked and what we can do to help in future with the role. She also highlighted some of the challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. We presented this interview to the Medication Safety Committee, who found the feedback and suggestions for improvement really helpful. The committee agreed, this type of conversation should be initiated and presented at each standards committee with consumers to help the committee continue to grow and support consumers.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Sarah: I’m so grateful to have Maxine as our consumer representative and look forward to continuing to work with her.

Maxine: I have enjoyed my time on the committee so far and, having a buddy like Sarah who is patient and flexible, has helped the experience to not be too overwhelming. I look forward to continuing the collaboration in person.

Featured image: Sarah Charles (left) and Maxine Vu (right)