Melbourne Children’s Campus Mental Health Strategy

Around 14 per cent of children and young people aged four to 17 years are affected by mental illness over any 12-month period. Even more children may struggle with mental health symptoms, especially if they have an underlying chronic illness.

Ensuring access to mental health prevention and early intervention for this cohort has been an ongoing challenge. The Melbourne Children’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is on a mission to change this and is predicted to impact more than 600,000 children beyond the strategy’s proposed five year period.

The Melbourne Children’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is an ambitious multi-year project that aims to provide a uniform and evidence based approach to mental health prevention, care and advocacy for all children, young people and their families across the Melbourne Children’s Campus, which includes The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The University of Melbourne Department of Paediatrics.

Led by Professor Harriet Hiscock (pictured below_ and Belinda Horton, the strategy is ensuring a holistic approach to mental health across the campus.

“One of the objectives of the Strategy is to advocate for and equip staff to see children’s health and wellbeing as integrated physical and mental health, rather than just caring for their medical needs or seeing mental health as being only relevant to children and young people admitted into specialist mental health services.

“Our tag line – ‘mental health is everyone’s business’ – conveys this collective responsibility and our strategy activities have facilitated new conversations about this,” Harriet and Belinda shared.

Both Harriet and Belinda shed light on the pivotal role that engagement with campus stakeholders has played in guiding the strategy towards success. The collaboration with the Steering Committee, and advisory, working and focus groups, has been instrumental in shaping the strategy’s approach to mental health, fostering a collective commitment to its objectives.

“These ‘pockets of awesomeness’ across the campus are about bringing together the people who are already doing exceptional work, to integrate and build on this work and to identify gaps.

It has also been wonderful to equally privilege children, young people and families’ lived experience of mental health and recovery and the lived experience of campus clinicians, researchers, and educators,” they recalled.

With over 100 individuals actively participating in advisory and working groups and many more engaging with strategy communications and activities, Harriet and Belinda shared the significance of this broad engagement across the Melbourne Children’s Campus.

“We have been privileged to work with many people from across the campus from multi-disciplinary backgrounds and the full range of research, education, clinical and non-clinical expertise.

“We see this as a privilege because the contributions of these very busy people have been provided in kind from their commitment to improving research, education and care of the mental health of children, young people and their families,” they shared.

“In line with our initial strategy planning, the final two years will be focused on ensuring that the outputs of each part of the strategy are embedded where they need to be across the campus and embraced by staff and campus leaders,” Harriet and Belinda explained.

Through innovative approaches, collaborative partnerships, and a commitment to inclusivity, the Melbourne Children’s Campus Mental Health Strategy seeks to shape a future where mental health challenges are met with effective, compassionate, and readily accessible support for every child and young person across the Melbourne Children’s Campus.

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RCH Health Literacy

Recent findings have shown over half of all Australian adults have low health literacy. There is a need to empower future generations of Australians by developing accessible reputable health information.

The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Health Literacy Project aims to create a range of new, engaging and inclusive digital health resources with and for young people, to elevate the voice of the child. The project will expand on two current health communications initiatives – the RCH National Child Health Poll and RCH Kids Health Info (KHI). 

Through understanding children and young people’s perspectives, this project aims to increase community health literacy, helping to keep them well, and out of hospital.

Thanks to the support of the Good Friday Appeal, the RCH can extend its unrivalled reach as a trusted online source of children’s health information, leading to better outcomes for young people in Australia and beyond.  

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Child Life Therapy in the Emergency Department

Thanks to Woolworths and the Good Friday Appeal, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) will be expanding its Child Life Therapy (CLT) program to the Emergency Department (ED). This will reduce stress for patients, families and staff, and help make visits to the hospital a more positive experience for everyone. 

Through using proven techniques such as play therapy, CLT focuses on the needs of children, ensuring compassionate and individualised trauma-informed care. This can reduce anxiety, and create a space where patients and their families feel supported. The expansion of CLT to the ED will lead to improved patient flow, and a more positive experience for staff and families. 

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Implementing a Vascular Access Specialist Team at the RCH

Thanks to the generosity of the Good Friday Appeal and its supporters, children receiving care at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) will soon have an expert team of specialist nurses providing support with the insertion of peripheral intravenous catheters (PIVCs).   

Eloise Borello, a Clinical Nurse Consultant who specialises in vascular access, said the Vascular Access Specialist Team (VAST) will make an enormous difference in the quality of care patients receive. 

“PIVCs, which are more commonly known as cannulas or drips, are used to deliver lifesaving medications and fluids to our patients,” Eloise said. 

“Many children who present to the RCH often require urgent medical treatment, and the fastest way to administer the medications and fluids they so vitally need is through a PIVC.  

“While PIVCs are common, it can be challenging to insert these devices in children as they have smaller, more fragile veins which are often difficult to see. This becomes even more difficult in critically unwell children. No child likes to have a needle inserted, and young children can become very scared and distressed when they need a cannula.   

“For some of our patients, the trauma of their first PIVC insertion can leave a lasting impact, causing high levels of anxiety and fear. Routine assessments or even simple checks, such as looking at the site, can become distressing triggers for children and young people.  

“We know inserting a cannula is one of the scariest procedures for children in hospital. Children and families have told us that the memories of a bad experience can last many years which can impact care in and out of the hospital. We are committed to reducing pain, anxiety and trauma that can be associated with PIVC insertion.”  

The VAST will work closely with patients, families, and clinical teams to improve this experience, enhance staff education, and create a patient-centred approach to inserting PIVCs. 

“The ultimate goal of the VAST is to create the best experience possible for children and their families,” 

By ensuring a best-practice approach to PIVC insertion, including the use of advanced technology like ultrasound-guided insertion, by a team of highly skilled clinicians who are experts in the field, the RCH will be at the forefront of care for children and families. 

While ultrasound guidance is proven to be the best technique to insert PIVCs, its uptake has not been widespread across most Australian healthcare settings because it takes clinicians months of training and experience to develop the advanced ultrasound skills required.  

The new ultrasound machines, also supported by the Good Friday Appeal and its partners, will be instrumental in allowing clinicians to use ultrasound guidance routinely for PIVC insertion, which is key to the successful outcomes of this treatment.   

“Growing a team of nursing experts skilled in the advanced ultrasound techniques will provide children who need this treatment with the best opportunity of having a successful insertion of the PIVC on the first attempt, drastically improving their experience,” said Eloise.   

Committed to revolutionising paediatric care, the VAST brings together a group of expert clinicians equipped with advanced knowledge and skills in vascular access.  

Recognising the challenges and trauma faced by young patients, the VAST is dedicated to improving expertise, reducing complications, enhancing staff education, and championing a patient-centred approach to PIVC insertion.  

Importantly, the impact of the VAST will reach beyond the four walls of the RCH.   

“Our goal is to create a service that includes a team of expert PIVC inserters and educators who will mentor and train junior doctors and nurses in best practice in PIVC insertion. As these clinicians rotate to different hospitals as part of their training, the skills they have developed will benefit children across Australia,” Eloise said. 

“We will also share our learnings around service design, data and outcomes. This collaboration will expand on the existing relationships the RCH has with our national colleagues and will ensure we cultivate a community of practice where ideas and learnings can be shared, and where implementation of best practice PIVC insertion is spread to all states.   

The introduction of VAST at the RCH will be a turning point for paediatric healthcare in Australia, something that Eloise knows would not be possible without the generosity of the Good Friday Appeal and its supporters.   

“We’re so grateful for the community in making this project possible. For our team, receiving this support represents how our community shares a vision that values improving the hospital experience for sick children across Victoria and Australia.    

“Your generosity allows us to innovate and develop a service which will be an Australian first in paediatric healthcare, and for that I would like to say thank you,” Eloise said.   

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Chronic Illness Peer Support (ChIPS) Program

The Chronic Illness Peer Support (ChIPS) program at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) has been transforming the lives of young people aged 12 to 25 living with chronic illnesses for 30 years.

Thanks to the Good Friday Appeal, ChIPS provides a supportive community for those navigating the complex world of chronic illness. It offers young people the opportunity to connect with each other through organised activities and twice yearly camps. There are currently 135 young people registered with ChIPS and up to 700 young people have participated in the program since 1993.

Reflecting on the ChIPS program’s incredible journey, Harry Lengelsen-Brown, Program Manager of ChIPS shared: “When people from other hospitals across the world hear about the ChIPS program, they say, ‘How have you managed to do that?’.” 

“The program is such a simple idea when you think about it: here’s a bunch of young people supporting each other, let’s put them into a program and see what happens. I wish the supporters of the program could meet some of the young people and hear from them and their families what this has meant for them because it’s genuinely life-changing.” 

The longevity of ChIPS is not just measured in numbers but in the countless stories of resilience, hope and transformation. 

“A particular story that stands out to me is a young person who said she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for ChIPS. When she first joined the program, she was in a very dark place. And now, she’s finished her degree and is just killing it,” Harry shared. 

As the ChIPS program continues to go from strength to strength, its future is full of possibilities. 

“Thirty years ago, they said, ‘Let’s listen to the young people and what they want, and we’ll do what we can to make that happen!’. And that’s still what we’re doing now, so as long as we remember that we can’t go wrong,” said Harry. 

“I want to say a massive thank you to all the ChIPS supporters! It’s hard to capture in words what ChIPS means to the young people that have been in the program.” 

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Garden Program Vision: A Breath of Fresh Air

Thanks to support from the Good Friday Appeal, patients and families at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) will have access to a dedicated Garden Program, offering a supportive and interactive space for all. This educational and therapeutic initiative will be led by a multidisciplinary team including child life therapists, garden staff, and volunteers and aims to decrease stress for patients and their families, which helps to improve patient recovery. Beth Dun, Manager, Child Life Therapy at the RCH said that garden programs have great benefits for patients and families.

“The Garden Program will be incredibly beneficial for patients at the RCH. As well as giving them a place to breathe in fresh air, it can also be a welcoming space for children and young people from regional areas, who often find the city very intimidating,” said Beth.

“Gardening itself has many benefits for patients, including offering a safe, natural setting to participate in a non-clinical, fun activity that provides a welcome distraction from their illnesses. The use of familiar garden tasks that are simple and diverse offers patients the chance to feel successful as well as tasks that cater to different levels of capacity or energy.”

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Children’s Cancer Care

Through the Children’s Cancer Centre, the leading provider of paediatric cancer services in Victoria, The Royal Children’s Hospital is committed to providing comprehensive cancer care for children and adolescents, which addresses not only treatment of their disease, but also holistic aspects, including psychosocial, financial, mental health and wellbeing, as well as educational and vocational needs.

Thanks to Good Friday Appeal support, the Children’s Cancer centre will utilise the latest learnings and best practice in cancer care through the funding of an integrated multidisciplinary team of specialist oncology medical, nursing, allied health, supportive care and research staff to provide holistic care to children, adolescents and their families.

Dr Di Hanna, Paediatric Oncologist at the Children’s Cancer Centre, said the medical treatment of cancer went hand in hand with the holistic care to best support patients and their families.

“The cancer journey needs a really holistic approach to support the patient and their family through and that involves the whole team, allied health professionals, neuropsychology, psychology, child life, play, everything,” Dr Hanna said.

“Without the generous support from the Good Friday Appeal, we couldn’t do what we do to provide the world class care.”

“The Appeal has been critical for every piece of the cancer journey. We need the latest and best research. We need diagnostic tools and the best clinical trials and the patient and family support networks. The Good Friday Appeal has been a cornerstone for each part of that.”

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Virtual Care Program

Thanks to the support of the Good Friday Appeal, The Royal Children’s Hospital is set to become a world leader in the principle of great care everywhere with a new Virtual Care Program.

This ambitious, multi-year strategy will enhance the care available to patients throughout Victoria.

In what is set to be a state-wide collaborative model, Virtual Care brings together families, regional care facilities, paediatricians and allied health staff to deliver a joint approach to care.

With patients at the focus, the new model of care aims to treat patients beyond the four walls of the Hospital and closer to home.

Using a range of technology-driven projects connecting patients at home to specialists at the RCH and training healthcare workers across the state, the project will create new ways of diagnosing, treating and monitoring children without the need to come into the Hospital.

This exciting new model of care is leading the way in paediatric healthcare and is possible thanks to your support of the Good Friday Appeal.

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Child Life Therapy: In House TV programs

These programs are supported by the Woolworths team and customers through the funds they raise for the Good Friday Appeal. 

Be Positive

Be Positive (B+) is the Hospital’s in-house TV program helping kids find out more about what happens in hospital.

B+ host Carlie and her two loveable friends, Jazz and Rocco, explore the hospital, talk to staff and experience special equipment.

The program helps patients become more familiar with the Hospital and helps them understand what might happen during their stay. 

Hospital Lingo

Hospital Lingo is the Hospital’s entertaining in-house game show that patients love participating in. Hospital Lingo is just like bingo but with the weird and wonderful things found in hospital.

The educational game distracts patients from their hospital experience and there are great prizes to be won.

Patients of any age can play the game which is aired on RCH TV three times a week.

Program proudly supported by the Woolworths team and customers

Posted September 2020

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Transforming Clinical Care to Improve Mental Health for Patients: Phase Two

Hospital stays can be scary times for both children and their parents, regardless of age and experience. New people, strange equipment and an unfamiliar environment are a lot to take in.

Supported by the Good Friday Appeal, this hospital-wide project will utilise evidence about emotional development and behavioural responses to stress, to up-skill clinicians to consider the mental health impact of every procedure and interaction they have with a child.

The project, which focuses on the zero to five-year age group was successfully piloted on the Koala (Cardiac Surgery) and Cockatoo (Surgical and Neuro Care) wards. It uses evidence-based strategies to equip clinicians to deliver great care by training them to:

  • communicate with young children
  • approach care in ways that reduce psychological harm
  • recognise deterioration in mental health in patients and their families
  • engage distressed parents to support their child

Thanks to your generosity, supporting the mental health of infants and young children at the Royal Children’s Hospital will become part of routine care.

Posted June 2020

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