Friday was my last day of work as Sunny Hill Children’s Health Centre’s Family Engagement Advisor. I’ve been in the odd position of saying goodbye since the beginning of July when I first went on a leave of absence from my position.
I wouldn’t recommend giving four months’ notice for a job. This has been like pulling a bandaid off veeeeerrrry slowly, as I didn’t want to leave. I loved my job. My quest for a flexible work environment has led me back to being home-based – within the confines of our condo, nobody cares what days of the week I work, just as long as I get the work done. So it is back to the freelancing life for me.
Resigning when you don’t want to is a weird thing. I didn’t get fired nor did I resign because I was unhappy with my job and heading to another position. Instead I left based on a tale of woe – the end result was a sad Sue.
I hope I left well, as the leaving really is the hardest part. All last week there were celebrations: a managers’ breakfast, a roundtable where folks shared what they had learned working with me – interesting, a common theme was how the managers now approach family ‘complaints’ – reframing complaints as constructive feedback to improve the quality of care and service – that pleased me.
Later in the week, I was treated to lunch at my favourite restaurant and on my last day, I hosted cake and coffee in my office, was gifted a huge bouquet of autumn flowers, and very specially – received a beautiful painting from the nursing unit of children’s hands done by the young patients there. I felt very loved.
A very diverse group of folks popped in and out of my office on Friday for a hug and piece of cake: administrative support staff, booking clerks, therapists, managers and physicians. My best hug was in the hall from one of the kindest, wittiest person I know – David, the gentleman who is the maintenance man at the hospital. This variety of staff validated my approach at work, and in life. Everybody matters. Everybody influences the patient and family experience in a hospital. Every single person working in a health setting should be considered a health professional – not just the clinicians – and deserves to be treated with the same respect and dignity that we ask for as patients and families. That love needs to be spread everywhere, all the time, to change the culture in a hospital.
Thank you to my Sunny Hill friends for the beautiful send off. Thank you to those in my online community who have expressed care and concern for me and our son over the past four months. We will be fine. Having me be home-based and more available for him has helped so far. I’m resourceful – picking up writing, consulting and speaking gigs as I go along. I’ll miss belonging to an organization, a steady paycheque (!) and the built in social connections that go along with that. Being a freelancer offers lots of freedom, but it can offer up loneliness, too. I learned so much about staff engagement at Sunny Hill, lessons that I will keep close to my heart as I move on. As I like to say, patient and family engagement and storytelling is my life’s work, whether I do it inside a hospital or not. I am proud of the family engagement work that’s been done at Sunny Hill over the last year and a half, and I know that the new Advisor will be in good hands.
Most importantly, it was an honour to have been invited to catch a glimpse into the complicated, beautiful lives of families who have children who are served by this pediatric rehab centre. May they continue to find the strength to use their voices and to share their stories to make the world of health care a better place, and may all the health professionals at Sunny Hill continue to create opportunities for the listening.