Children's wellbeing championed
Support on offer for vulnerable children and their families at Canterbury Hospital
Rheannwynn Sneesby’s sole goal is to support vulnerable children and their families.
“Healthy child development commences in the first few days of life and continues as the building blocks to future success. We want children in our community to thrive by offering families better support,” she said.
Rheannwynn is the first Clinical Nurse Consultant in NSW who specialises in child protection and wellbeing.
“Historically, child protection and wellbeing was a focus of doctors and social workers but nurses and midwives often have the most contact with patients… so that’s why my role was established,” she said.
The impact of abuse, exposure to domestic and family violence and neglect can affect all parts of a child’s development. Children are more likely to have learning and development problems, physical and mental health issues and behavioural issues.
“Children and young people need stability, even when families face rough times, in order to develop in a healthy way. Like a lighthouse, we can help parents to navigate life’s storms,” Rheannwynn said.
Health workers are in a unique position to identify families experiencing vulnerabilities and to respond in a way that addresses these risks and enhances family and child wellbeing.
Rheannwynn is a key member of the team at Canterbury Hospital that is committed to the early identification and response to children, young people and families experiencing child protection or child wellbeing concerns who attend the hospital.
Senior doctors, nurses, mental health, drug health and social workers are members of the team who lead innovative practices across the hospital’s emergency, paediatric and maternity departments.
“It’s about putting children first,” Rheannwynn said.
Last year, 45 000 patients attended Canterbury Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED), with 11 500 presentations for children and their families.
The hospital has established a process to review all paediatric ED presentations each week for follow-up and to link vulnerable patients with support services.
The hospital works in partnership with families to address child protection issues and has a range of services, and strong partnerships with other agencies, aimed at supporting families facing vulnerabilities.
“We have a genuine commitment to the wellbeing of children. Early referral and access to health and social services in the community for families is prized,” she said.
This year, the team won $20 000 at The Pitch, Sydney Local Health District’s quarterly innovation challenge, to fund a training program that aims to enhance child wellbeing and child protection-specific communication skills for staff.
“We conducted research and found that more could be done to ensure children and their families get the help they need, when they need it.
“As a result, we are developing a training program called Innovation in Communication. It’s a novel concept that hasn’t been done before in Australia,” she said.
During a two-day intensive training program, staff will participate in scientific roleplays and be able to practice their child protection-specific communication skills through the simulations. There’ll be a supportive de-brief so staff can work through some of these tough conversations.
The program will be piloted at Canterbury Hospital over the next 12 months. It’s planned to then expand the program to all facilities in the District. Other Local Health Districts have also expressed interest in being involved.
The team’s success was also recognised with their work to implement governance-led reform of child protection practice at Canterbury Hospital winning first prize at the District’s annual Child Protection and Wellbeing Awards.