Every role at VHA contributes to something amazing. At Home with VHA tells the stories of those who make up VHA Home HealthCare. Meet Registered Nurse Sara Fung, Professional Practice Specialist for Nursing and Personal Support. Outside of her role at VHA Sara is the co-host of an award winning podcast where she examines hot topics related to health and healthcare. In honour of National Nursing Week, which runs from May 10-16 2021, we chatted with Sara about her role, her home care passions, and her goals for nurses and healthcare workers everywhere.
How would you describe your role at VHA?
I am a professional practice specialist for nursing and personal support. As part of the Quality, Best Practices, and Education (QBPE) team I help implement best practices based on research and evidence-based practice. Whether that is a new guideline, policy or educational session, my role is to provide the oversight and guidance to the nursing and personal support groups. Some examples of projects I have worked on include implementing our Chronic Disease Self-Management Best Practice Guideline, Competency Validation, Special Functions and Delegated Acts, and Medication Reconciliation. I was quite involved in Medication Management and Infection Prevention and Control as a co-lead during Accreditation, so if you have crossed paths with me likely it was related to one of these two initiatives! This year I am involved in supporting virtual care for nurses, working on some documentation updates to EMRI related to medications, and continuing with our work at VHA as a Best Practice Spotlight Organization (BPSO) with the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO).
What do you love most about what you do?
I love working at VHA and my team. Everyone I have met is exemplary in what they do and I am honoured to be part of an organization with such a positive work culture. We really do walk the talk and have a lot of innovative ideas. The team I work with is supportive, fun and hardworking at the same time. I enjoy working on problems and improving processes. I also like getting to know people from different departments, including client partners, and understanding their perspectives. It’s really rewarding to work on committees, projects and initiatives and see tangible results because everyone works well together and has a shared vision and goals.
What made you want to work in home care?
When I was a nursing student, I worked for 3 summers as a Home Support Worker/Personal Support Worker at another home care agency. I also worked as a private caregiver for a family and I saw the ability healthcare workers had to build strong relationships in the community setting. After spending over 10 years working in the hospital setting I felt it was time to return to community care where there is a lot of potential to really make a difference. Home is where clients want to be and while acute care is important, the majority of time clients spend is at home and that is where the level of care they receive really affects their quality of life.
Can you tell us a little bit about your podcast, how it came to be and what your goal is with the podcast?
I had experienced some challenges in my previous roles related to bullying, inclusivity and silencing. I feel that these issues are pervasive not just in nursing but in healthcare, so with a former colleague who is also a nurse, we decided to do something out of the box and create our own podcast! We cover many different hot topics that affect healthcare workers, and see this as supplemental learning to what you learn in school or out on the job. We felt like there was a lot we had experienced that wasn’t being discussed, that the nursing voice was absent in the media, and we saw very few role models in nursing that we could relate to. The podcasting platform is an increasingly popular medium to reach a wide audience, so while our topics are all related to healthcare, it is easy for anyone to listen and understand the discussion.
As a racialized nurse, I advocate for diversity and inclusion, women’s health, health equity and mental health. The goal with the podcast is to bring many issues to light, such as racism, bullying, homelessness, and the pandemic, while sharing our personal stories and also amplify the voices of those who have been silenced.
How would you describe the connection your podcast and your role at VHA?
I believe that advocacy is a common theme, whether it is advocating for your client or for general issues in healthcare, this is something I encourage all healthcare providers to do. Many providers may not feel comfortable doing this but it definitely gets easier with practice and I would recommend starting with small steps. Be aware of what’s happening with healthcare by staying current with the news, getting involved with professional organizations in your discipline and being aware of what’s happening politically.
We also bring voice to those who are part of vulnerable populations or have been silenced. Think about this with your clients, how are they vulnerable and how can you better understand their needs and understand the barriers they encounter in the healthcare system.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Change is not easy but it is worth the time and effort. Traditionally very few nurses speak out about issues in healthcare, however with the pandemic and all of the new challenges, there has never been a better time to start. We definitely rely on subject matter experts when we cover a topic on the podcast we aren’t too familiar with. We are always learning more from research we do for episodes and from our guests, so I would encourage everyone to never stop learning and improving your practice!