Help with decision making in health care with the Community Advisory Committee
The RCPA’s governance structure includes a number of committees, each with its own particular focus and purpose. Starting with the Founding Fellows in 1956, many thousands of RCPA members have been involved in voluntary committee work over the years. Currently well over 430 members sit on the many Boards, committees, sub-committees and working parties of the RCPA and also represent the College on various external organisations. With calls for nominations currently open, Janney Wale, chair of the Community Advisory Committee encourages Fellows and community members to consider being involved. If you are, or you know someone who would be, interested then please contact the RCPA.
“My participation in the RCPA’s Community Advisory Committee really started with my journey as a consumer representative. Following knee revision surgery, it became pretty obvious that I couldn’t continue with laboratory work, and that’s when I became a consumer representative. At first, I started out with Cochrane because I wanted to know more about the evidence base behind medicine. It was through this work with Cochrane that I became aware of other consumer representatives in Australia.
“I joined the Health Consumers’ Council (WA) and trained as a consumer representative and with the help of really good mentors. I went on to join national committees – mainly on muscular skeletal diseases and medical devices – and through that, I was invited to be an observer on the National Pathology Accreditation Advisory Council (NPAAC). I eventually became a member of NPAAC and ended up staying there for a number of years, largely because of a lack of awareness about what pathology is, not only by the consumer representatives but also by the patients, the public and the policy makers.
“Through NPAAC I gained a lot of respect for the RCPA and the pathology community, especially around accreditation, so when I eventually left NPAAC I joined the College’s Community Advisory Committee. I found this committee particularly important because it brings together communities, pathologists and clinical scientists to discuss some of the issues around pathology in the community. Because we have pathologists on the committee as well as community members, it feels like a real community working together,” said Janney.
The Community Committee’s primary purpose is to provide the RCPA with input and guidance from a consumer perspective, and to support the College in responding to consumers’ concerns and questions regarding pathology. It provides a valuable and valued voice that ensures the voices of consumers from Australia and New Zealand are represented and listened to in an official and respectful way. The Committee also keeps members up-to-date with College initiatives, and responds to their concerns.
“For me it was really important that the committee should be action based. That’s when we set up a task force for the transgender and gender diverse community. This task force created a community facing brochure and website content about which pathology tests are important to be aware of when gender can change how results are interpreted. Through the Committee, we also created a best practice document for the pathology community – now we want to extend that work to look at other vulnerable communities, including Aboriginal, Maori and Torres Strait Islanders. We hope to not only raise awareness of pathology but also raising awareness of testing in some health conditions among the community.
“The other thing that we’re particularly interested in is the availability of test results for individual consumers. Shared decision making in health care is a national standard and more and more consumers want to have ownership of their own data, including pathology data. This is where things are going, and we need to move with it.
“These are everyday issues that affect everyone, and I would say you definitely get out of the committee what you put in. We want people to really get involved in the committee and use their background knowledge to contribute to what we’re doing. We need to talk to the grass roots people as well – so you can come from any background and still give valuable input. The time required is not demanding and you definitely benefit from the experience,” said Janney.