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  • Annelie Wessels

The year after my research

In the past month I was privileged to get the opportunity to present my honours research of last year at the annual ORSSA conference. For my honours project, I built a discrete event simulation model of the patient flow at a state clinic. The objective was to decrease the total time that patients spend in the clinic. To prepare for my presentation, I went back to the clinic where I did my research.

When I presented my results to the clinic last year, everyone was very optimistic to implement some of my suggestions. Especially after the 3D model that I showed them of the potential patient flow in the clinic, everyone was quite eager to tackle a few problems and implement a few suggestions.

The clinic promised to look at my suggestions at the beginning of this year and although they sounded optimistic, I had my doubts. I know the clinic has a shortage of staff as well as resources that they have to share among them. This, together with the strain on financial resources, were just not an ideal combination and my hope for them was little. The operational manager of the clinic is also a practicing sister and therefore one cannot expect her to drive this whole project. It had to be a group effort.

When I heard that I have to present my research again, I decided to go back to the clinic and see what they have been up to during this past year. Since I kept in touch with the people there, it was quite familiar when I arrived back at the clinic and everyone welcomed me with open arms. At first I was quite sceptical, because when I arrived, there was a power outage and chaos was running through the clinic’s hallways. I still had little hope and thoughts of “why did I even try” crossed my mind. I greeted everyone and made small talk, but decided to go back on another day when circumstances were normal and I can calmly talk to the people there.

After I went back for the second time, I could not believe what they told me. There was actually one or two extra people appointed to help out, one for admin which I specifically pointed out in my research. I nearly fell of my chair when I heard this, because that position had been vacant for a very long time. Secondly, they actually changed one leg of their appointment system according to my recommendations and got rid of the “first come, first serve” approach for the sister’s appointments.

I know, and they know as well, that there are still some major changes required to make the patient flow more efficient. I also know that it must have been extremely difficult for them to implement the changes they have already made. Not only is it a different way of doing things for them, but to change the mindset of the patients can be very difficult. Although it is not perfect yet, and probably will never be, they tried and they are continuing trying.

I am extremely proud of this clinic. Despite of all the challenges they face, they still want to make a difference and be better in what they are doing. This experience gave my purpose and made me excited about my future career in this field.

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