09.21.16 By Sanofi Le Hub
Micheline Quesnel-Deshayes is a private-practice nurse in France’s Ille-et-Vilaine department, where her business and healthcare-related projects are designed to empower diabetic patients in improving their daily lives. She is particularly invested in her own region, more specifically the Pays de Fougères, an assemblage of 58 cities and towns in Brittany, and is driven by her conviction that close contact and dialogue are the keys to better healthcare.
Her project, with a name translating to “Involvement of patient volunteers with a private-practice nurse in educational monitoring of diabetics”, won the Coup de pouce award in the 2012 Care Challenge.
In parallel with the fifth anniversary of the founding of Connecting Nurses, Sanofi Le Hub met with Micheline Quesnel-Deshayes to learn more about the origins of this project and how it has evolved since its creation.
The initial idea was to develop a new resource in the Pays de Fougères to assist patients with diabetes with daily management of their illness. Creating a local clinical resource is essential to help those with chronic diseases to properly manage their illness and treatment: it means they can have local references, which is more engaging.
We also felt it was important to work directly with patients and tailor our efforts to the challenges they’ve faced over the course of their personal experiences.
So we opened an office, which is still in operation. The patients with diabetes who come are very loyal and the volunteers are very committed.
We organize high-impact operations to raise awareness about diabetes-related issues. For example, one Saturday a year over the last three years, we’ve staffed a stand in a high-traffic supermarket area to meet with patients, and anyone else interested in the topic, to talk about diabetes- and food-related issues. Between 40 and 50 people stopped at our stand this year. They were 80 last year.
We don’t perform diabetes testing at these stands, because it’s hard to do that without a physician or a diabetes specialist. Revealing that someone has diabetes is not something to be taken lightly and not something you do on a street corner. Nevertheless, our volunteers are in touch with the Fougères hospital complex. They organize one testing day each year, where healthcare professionals are on duty to talk with patients and answer their questions.
Also, our network is growing: a patient volunteer organized discussions and activities in her own sector. Our association operates like a chain: the oldest patient volunteers train new patient volunteers. Once they are ready, they can share their experience and discuss with other patients at Fougères’ Association Forum.
First of all, patients’ state of mind. For some years now, we notice a growing awareness about the importance of developing a patient’s network.
Also, health professionals’ work habits are evolving. They now express their need to network and to set up a real professional coordination to improve their patients’ journey.
Volunteer patients now act as ambassadors with their friends and families, as well as with their co-workers. They really care about raising awareness about diabetes, so the disease is better understood and recognised, and they organise many events to accomplish this.
It’s important to point out that patient autonomy, whether it is for diabetes or any other chronic illness, is a deeply personal undertaking. Contrary to what many people still think today, it’s not just about the skills of healthcare professionals – it is first and foremost an inner journey that is taken by the patient alone. It involves motivation and a gradual, increasing awareness in response to this question: in what way will this treatment bring meaning to my life?
Nevertheless, health professionals still have a very important role to play in this new awareness that ultimately leads to changed behaviour. That’s why the TPE (Therapeutic Patient Education) programmes I’ve established are so important. For example, we need special training designed specifically for physicians. They need to be able to get together to discuss the failed strategies they’ve experienced – it must come from them directly, and they must create their own tools as a result. That’s why I travel the region, going out to meet them in person, and several practitioners have already shared their clear interest.
The lightbulb really went off for me with the Care Challenge. I realized that I could do something that truly makes a difference and could rally health professionals around shared projects. I had a real “aha moment”, suddenly grasping that something was happening in our region and it was time for me to take action.
Thanks to discussions and many moment of reflexion about our professional practices in TPE, we created a healthcare-professional association, called “Soigner ensemble en Pays de Fougères”, which means “Treat together in the Pays de Fougères”. In our first year, 2014, we attracted 115 new members. The second year, another 140.
Why not? Now that “Soigner ensemble en Pays de Fougères” is in its final phase of development, we are focused on the creation of a new project: a support platform that responds to health professionals and patients’ needs called “Appui santé du Pays de Fougères” (Health support in Pays de Fougères).
Following the success of our association, we very quickly decided to present this new platform project to the ARS, the Regional Health Agency.
Though this association is meant primarily for healthcare professionals, it is ultimately beneficial to patients, as well. For patients to enjoy greater independence and improved support, the healthcare professionals working with and around them need to communicate on a peer-to-peer basis, with opportunities to discuss issues and share experiences. Then, some hospitalizations can be avoided, and some admission in health institutions delayed, according to patients’ wishes. Their needs and priorities are really taken into account.
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