St John youth bringing a fresh perspective to health services

The St John Youth and Canterbury Clinical Network (CCN) partnership is nearing its first anniversary and the relationship has proved so successful it is now being formalised. The pilot project which has been running through 2020 has been endorsed for St John Youth to offer a permanent voice across CCN’s groups. 

CCN Senior Project Facilitator Koral Fitzgerald says the enthusiasm of these young people to step forward and offer meaningful engagement with the groups has been truly inspiring and made the pilot extremely successful. Koral adds that this has been even more impressive considering the disruptive year we have experienced with Covid-19, but they have taken it all in their stride. 

“They are held in high regard amongst their groups and their perspectives highly sought for their fresh take on what our community needs from their health services,” says Koral. 

St John Youth member for the Rural Health Workstream (RHWS) Sian Sunckell, says she feels lucky to be part of her group. 

“As a youth member, nursing student and growing up in a rural community, I have loved being involved in this group. It has been a great opportunity for me to gain insight into the development and planning that goes on to provide more sustainable, equitable health care for our rural communities,” says Sian.

St John Youth member for the System Outcomes Steering Group Ella McClure, says this partnership has created a meaningful platform for young people to engage with health sector decision making. 

“The opportunity to join the System Outcomes Steering group this year has been an incredible learning experience,” says Ella.

“I am currently studying Public Health at university; we explore ways to reduce inequity and prevent disease. This role has shown me how strengthening system integration and embracing local clinically led health initiatives can improve health outcomes. I am excited to continue learning alongside such a passionate group of individuals in the year ahead and would highly encourage others to get involved.”

Chantelle Chalmers, St John Regional Youth Support – South Island Region, says St John has received positive feedback about the pilot from the CCN groups and St John representatives. 

“We are excited that the partnership is continuing, and that St John Youth will have a permanent voice within the Canterbury Health System. This is a great opportunity for our young people to learn valuable skills while contributing to something that interests them and has a positive impact on the community,” says Chantelle. 

An example of the impact these young people are having was seen at the October RHWS meeting when Sian presented her nursing degree literature review, ‘Telehealth: Overcoming Barriers for Rural Healthcare’.

RHWS Chair John Luhrs, says it sparked several discussion points about rural access to specialist services, addressing Māori inequity and that rural health providers need current and reliable equipment and internet stability to use telehealth effectively.   

“Sian challenged us to consider greater use of telehealth, which led the group to explore what other members of the RHWS know about telehealth progress locally, regionally and nationally.”

“Members have been impressed by Sian's understanding of the issues facing rural populations. Despite being at the start of her clinical career, Sian is already a huge asset both to nursing and to the work of our group.”

“I have had nothing but positive experiences with the RHWS and would strongly recommend others give it a go and get involved with a CCN group too,” says Sian.

Recruitment for new members will start in March / April 2021. For more information contact youth.southisland@stjohn.org.nz or koral.fitzgerald@ccn.health.nz

View an information flyer here.

Image above: Sian (left) and Ella (right)

About the Author