Incredible Interns: Improving patient experience for young people

Since birth, Ashley has been a regular visitor to Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, undergoing the first of many surgeries at only 18-months-old. Now an adult, she has spent her fair share of time in hospital, and has a goal to help young people going through the same things she has.

Helping her achieve her goal is the ChIPS (Chronic Illness Support Program) team, and Ashley has been able to help ChIPS too; working as an intern to set up the foundations for multiple projects within the ChIPS program, including a focus on the different parts of wellbeing and creating reference committee that allowed for more young people within the program to have a voice.

ChIPS is a program for young people, by young people, and Ashley used the internship as an opportunity to learn more about the hospital system and see how she could use her experiences to make a difference in young people’s lives that interact with the hospital.

“I decided to apply for ChIPS intern role as I had already been volunteering with the program itself for almost two years and I loved the work that the group undertook in both creating a safe space for young people with a chronic condition, as well as a space to promote and advocate for themselves both in a hospital context and in everyday life,”

“My connection to the hospital and the program itself made me want to take on the internship as I felt that as someone with lived experience I could provide a new perspective on issues affecting young people in the hospital,” Ashley said.

As part of her internship, Ashley assisted the ChIPS coordinators, helping establish the ‘Well Connected’ Program, which focuses on various areas of wellbeing for young people, including emotional wellbeing and financial literacy.

“This is something I am really passionate about, as I believe it’s important for young people to be equipped with these skills, as it has a direct impact on both independence and the fulfilment of other areas of wellbeing,” she said.

Ashley also played a key role in collaborating with a range of other teams across the Network to provide a young person’s perspective on projects and ideas. Her time as ChIPS intern was not only a win for the Network, having a passionate and talented young person with lived experience in hospital providing advice and recommendations is invaluable, the internship was also of huge benefit to Ashley.

“From my time in the role I definitely felt more prepared in taking on a full time job. The internship provided me with the necessary skills to advocate for myself and my needs in a professional setting, and it taught me that the right employer will listen and help you to fulfil your potential,”

“I think the best part of this experience was the feeling of being included within the workplace. The entire team was really focused on ensuring we felt comfortable with asking for adjustments, listened to what we thought worked and didn’t as people with a disability/condition. Overall being able to make a direct impact on a program that is incredibly important to me already was an amazing experience,” Ashley said.

Ashley didn’t have to look far for the right employer, loving the environment of SCHN so much that she applied for, and was successful in gaining a full time position within the Network.

“This opportunity came through because of the great support I was given by the team and I am really enjoying everything I am learning and the opportunities that the internship provided for me. My advice to other young people would be to not be scared to put yourself out there and accept opportunities when they come to you. You never know where you might end up!”

ChIPS is an exciting adolescent peer support program that runs across Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network for young people aged 12-25 years who are living with a chronic illness or condition that affects their day-to-day lives.

For more information about ChIPS, or to enquire about joining, email schn-chips@health.nsw.gov.au