Lisi's story

Lisi Archibald is featured in Spark the Difference's Humans of Healthcare art exhibition and is interviewed here by Sam Meikle, founder of Spark the Difference.

Sam: Welcome to the Humans of Healthcare edition of the Spark the Difference podcast. My guest in this episode is Lisi Archibald. Lisi, thank you for joining me.

Lisi: That’s alright.

Sam: Lisi, where’s your accent from?

Lisi: My accent is from St Albans in Hertfordshire.

Sam: Where have you spent most of your working life?

Lisi: In London.

Sam: What do you do for work?

Lisi: I’m a graphic designer.

Sam: How long have you been doing that for?

Lisi: So all in all, I think my career as a graphic designer has been for about seven years, but full-time I’ve been doing it for about four.

Sam: What made you decide to start working in healthcare?

Lisi: Well I think I kind of just fell into actually. I was offered a really interesting project and I just went for it. I thought it was really a great opportunity and then everything just started flourishing from there.

Sam: What has made you stay working around health care?

Lisi: I've never really wanted to do design for corporations for packaging for sweets and food and stuff like that. That doesn’t really excite me so much. When there’s more of a wholesome outcome, it makes me feel better as a designer and I’m not selling anything that feels a little bit immoral. I think that is much
better for me morally.

Sam: What keeps you going?

Lisi: I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that my work is informative for people. So whether it be patients when they’re looking for packaging for their drugs or leaflets that inform them on services, or information on their care - that makes me feel good about myself, that I’m helping them in that way. That for me feels a lot better than selling them a chocolate bar.

Sam: Thinking about when you or a family member used health or social care services, can you think of a time where things went really well?

Lisi: It was a few years ago. My dad, he had a problem with his heart, he had angina and he was scheduled to have heart bypass. Whilst he was in surgery they realised he needed to have more than one, he needed to have five bypasses in one operation. When my mum told me I was really scared, I was really worried ‘cause you know it’s my dad. I haven't really been prepared for it to be this major.

I remember when the day of his operation I left work early and I made sure that I was at the hospital waiting for him, for when he came out and he was ok again. So I went there and I was really, really anxious and I went to the ward.

The nurses were so lovely and they said, ‘he’s just kind of stirring now, he's waking up and if you want you can go sit with him.’

And I was shaking like leaf I was so scared but the nurse got me a cup of tea, she got a chair and she was like, ‘he is under a lot of sedation but if you just talk to him like just hearing words will make - he’ll start to come around a bit more lucidly, so it’ll probably be really helpful for him’.

So I was just talking and - I remember - he didn't know anything. He was asking what day it was, what time it was. He didn't really know who I was either.

But it was really nice and I remember the room he was in had loads of sunlight and I was so grateful that they hadn't plonked him in a room that didn't have any light at all. It was just him and one other person. I don’t know, it was just nice and clean. I was really grateful for that.

Sam: What one piece of advice would you give the young health professional who is just starting out on a career, about how to retain their values, or how to stay human, in an increasingly stressed environment?

Lisi: I think the most important thing to remember in your healthcare professional is treat people like people; don't treat people like symptoms.

The best thing you can do is when they walk in through the door is greet and ask them, ‘are they having a nice day’, or just to say, ‘hello I'm Sarah’ or something and let them answer back, because immediately you just completely disarm any anxiety they have walking into your office.

Or if you’re a nurse and you’re coming, to their bed, they just feel so much more happy. You straight away soon as you introduce yourself, the human element is already there.

So whatever you say from that moment on in, everything is going to you know be a bit more plain sailing, rather than kind of going ‘oh ok right so what’s your problem then.’ Cause then you’re just like, ‘oh ok - well he really doesn't care , or she really doesn't care.’

Some of the things that I’ve had -- so for example when I had my blood tests. So I had to have three done. So the first of three, the guy sat me down, he didn't even say what his name was.

He was literally like, ‘take your coat off and lift your sleeve up. If you don’t like needles look away in the opposite direction’ and I was like ahhh – not going to swear right now Sam - but literally, I was in my head I was freaking out because I don't like needles.

But the second time I went the lady was lovely, she was like, ‘hey how’s it going? You alright - take a seat down I’ll be with you in just a second.’

She was like, ‘are you a bit nervous?’

And I was like, ‘Yeah’

And she was like, ‘don’t worry I don’t like needles either.’

She said, ‘you won’t know that I’m doing this.’

And I was like ‘what do you mean?’

And she said ‘I’ve already done it.’

And I was like what. Just you know the way she was in comparison to the way that he was, she treated me like a human and he treated me like an arm.

The comparison was just massive. On the one hand I’m really anxious and literally wanting to be anywhere else but there and on the other hand I’m don’t really want to be here but at least she’s having a laugh with me and then when she told me that she had already done it and I had nothing to worry about in the first place. It was just completely different.

Sam: What has working in health or social care meant to you?

Lisi: I think a bit more of a connection, especially when we worked in London Connect. That was such an eye opener, because at the time, I’d never worked directly with patients -- not that we did anything clinical, of course, but actually listening to real points of views from people that either suffering or talking on behalf of others who were experiencing healthcare at the time.

They always had something to say and something that needed to be improved and you actually felt like you were helping them. It’s that thing about being heard and actions actually been taken, in line with the things that they've been saying; the things that they wanted and it was just nice.

It felt like it was a really human position to have and it didn't feel like a job. That was one of the things that I really loved about that position. It didn't feel like a job it was more than that.

Sam: What has working in healthcare taught you about people?

Lisi: That everybody is different and everybody has something to say. And whilst someone might experience the same thing, it isn’t the same. It’s very different.

I suppose the other thing that I actually quite like as well is the hierarchies don’t need to matter, you don’t need to be fearful of somebody who’s in a high position like a doctor or a chief executive, or something like that because they are just people with their own issues, their own problems and actually with their own knowledge to share.

Small things can make a big difference, has there been a time when a small act made you feel valued and respected?

Lisi: When people remember little things, that's always a wonderful feeling. When they remember your birthday, or if they literally just say thank you for doing that.

A while ago, we had a day where we said thank you to each other. I remember walking in, in the morning and there was little treat on my desk saying thank you for being so creative. It was just a little card with some chocolates and it was so simple. But it was so sweet. I took a photo and I’ve always kept that photo because it was just so adorable.

But it’s the little things like that, that just make you feel that what you're doing is special.

Sam: Final question – we’ve had quite a deep and trusting conversation, any final thoughts?

Lisi: I keep a lot to myself and I’m actually inside I’m a bit of a scared cat.

I think sometimes I find things quite difficult and I don’t quite know how to express them and I’m just like, ‘OK, well I’m not going to express it at all.’

It’s all quite British. On the inside, you’re going on vesuvius meltdown and then on the outside, you’re like, cool calm and collected like - I can walk through Soho with my head held high, drinking my super special latte, with crazy syrups.

Sam: Do you think other people working in healthcare feel that?

Lisi: I think they do. I think healthcare is quite a difficult place of work.

You have so much expected of you as a healthcare professional. I’m sure there are different positions and different areas of working in healthcare that have different pressures. But, certainly I think if you’re on the front line - if you’re a doctor, a nurse, or a healthcare assistant, or anybody that works in a clinical area, you have so much expected of you.

You have patients that have got demands. But then you’ve got these additional pressures, like targets that you need to hit. I think it's quite easy to lose certain things – to lose your morals, for example. Just the simple thing about treating someone as a person rather than as a symptom can be quite difficult I think.

There's a lot going on, in terms of, how they can do their jobs better with the resources that they have. I reckon there is so much anxiety bubbling below the surface and soon it’s just going to rise to the surface and everyone is just going beyond strike like junior doctors. Then - I don’t know - can’t even imagine what’s going to happen.

Sam: So my vision is to start improving the interactions – so a patient would have a positive interaction like you did with the nurse, the female nurse. And if we start to spark these little one-on-one interactions then hopefully the whole healthcare system will start to feel better about itself and the anxiety and the pressures will go down and we can start to improve things.

Lisi: And I think that will work, I think it will. I know it’s in the early days but hopefully it’ll like one of those lovely big snowballs and everything will just start rolling.

Sam: That’s the plan. Thank you very much for your time Lisi, it’s been a pleasure to have you here.

Lisi: Welcome, that’s ok.

Sam: Thank you for being open and sharing where you. Thank you Lisi.

Lisi: Thank you Sam.