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Ashley Waliczek: A Patient’s Perspective on Healthcare

It’s Ashley Waliczek giving a patient’s perspective on healthcare on this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast with Rob Oliver. Ashley currently lives in Windsor, Ontario. Her perspective is unique in that she has lived in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Ontario, giving her experience with the US healthcare system in 2 locations as well as the Canadian healthcare system. It’s fascinating to hear her talk about having to find a volunteer doctor.

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Here are 3 points that stuck out in my mind from Ashley Waliczek as she gave us a patient’s perspective on healthcare:

  • A volunteer doctor at a free clinic for newcomers to Canada became a healthcare hero! He took the patient’s concern seriously, ordered the necessary tests and identified a serious medical issue.
  • Quality Healthcare is about building mutual trust. Patients need to be involved in their own health and, especially, in the decision-making process.
  • Empathy is key. Healthcare professionals should treat every patient with respect and empathy. This fosters a collaborative approach rather than a top-down model.

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Here is the text of Ashley Waliczek giving a patient’s perspective on healthcare:

Opening the Conversation

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. Ashley, I’m going to tell you, you had me a little bit nervous and I was beginning to think, I don’t see you. Are you here? Are we okay? What’s going on?

Ashley Waliczek: I’m sorry. I was having some technological problems. My Internet tried to boot me, so I was trying to make sure that I didn’t just jump into your conversation with your previous guests. So I waited for your cue and then set it all up. So hopefully, my connection is okay.

Rob Oliver: It is working now as the strength meter shows that you are at full strength for your connection.

Ashley Waliczek: So I don’t know what that means.

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. So I was usually asked what your name is, but I’ve introduced you as Ashley. So glad that you’re here. Ashley, where are you from?

Ashley Waliczek: Well, I am from the States, which I never thought I’d be saying the States. Originally, you know. So I live in Canada now. I’m in Windsor, Ontario, but I grew up Pittsburgh and Boston half and half.

Rob Oliver: Got it. So when you say that you are from the States, which you’re now living in Windsor, or where are you living in Canada?

Ashley Waliczek: Yeah, Windsor, Ontario in Canada.

Rob Oliver: All right. So you’ve had experience on both sides of the border?

Ashley Waliczek: Yes.

Describe Your Experiences in Healthcare

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. So can you tell me about yourself and your experiences in healthcare?

Ashley Waliczek: Sure. So I am turning 30 this year. I’ve got two little boys. I actually have a pretty uncomplicated medical history in terms of my relationship to healthcare. But of course, when you have children, you kind of, the healthcare is a necessary part. And I kind of experienced that two completely opposite directions with my kids. So yeah, the whole process to having my children was a crazy thing, especially being an immigrant. I mean, it doesn’t really feel like that so much because Canada and the US are so similar, but the healthcare systems just work completely different. So basically what happened was, right after I moved here to Canada, I was not eligible for government insurance. And so I started having like some really strange symptoms, didn’t know what was going on, really severe pain in my stomach. But I was afraid because I couldn’t really go to see a provider without it costing like hundreds upon hundreds of dollars while I wasn’t able to work. So I ended up in the service of a volunteer doctor who spotted cysts that I had that I actually needed to go back to the US to get care for. Yeah, it was a crazy sort of situation. But anyway, that just opened my eyes to like, wow, this in-between spot as an expat is very complicated because if something even minor happens during that space in time, it’s very complicated to get care and it could have affected, I mean, if I decided not to go to the doctor and pursue that, I mean, I could have been seriously harmed in waiting an extra two years.

Rob Oliver: Sure. Okay, talk to me, did you say a volunteer doctor?

Ashley Waliczek: Yes, yeah. So this is a crazy-

Rob Oliver: How did you find a volunteer doctor?

Ashley Waliczek: Okay, so yes, I understand that sounds very strange. So I was really looking for places that were offering, I mean, I was in Toronto area where we have an abundance of newcomers at all times. And so I thought maybe there’s like a newcomer welcome center that I could find a free clinic that they have. I honestly had no idea that something like that would even exist, but it turns out there was one, I think it was called the Muslim Free Clinic or something like that. I don’t remember the full name of this place, but anyone who didn’t have government insurance who was waiting for immigration paperwork was free to come in and see this team of rotating doctors basically that they had from multiple health systems around who volunteered their time and were able to offer you legally like referrals, requisitions, blood tests, prescriptions, like all the same things that any other doctor in like a walk-in clinic would do. So yeah, I ended up being treated by a doctor who was not paid a dime for her services.

Encountering a Healthcare Hero

Rob Oliver: Wow, so tell me, have you met a healthcare hero during your journeys?

Ashley Waliczek: Yes, so actually that doctor you imagine was a huge important person in my life then because I didn’t really have anybody else. And I remember, I still remember her sitting, you know, across the table from me, her name was Dr. Badawi and just so kind. And the minute I walked in, she just was such a good listener. Like she totally didn’t dismiss any of my concerns. Previously, I had seen a doctor at that clinic actually who had basically dismissed all of my pain symptoms and said, you need to de-stress. I’ll give you anti-anxiety medication because this is all in your head essentially. And a month later, I was still feeling all these things. And I said, I’m gonna try one more time. And if this doctor doesn’t take care of it, I’m just gonna wait it out. And so when I went in the second time, I told this doctor about my experience before and she was just like mortified. And she was like, no, this is absolutely of concern. There’s no reason you should be experiencing this. I will like, I think she sent me a slip for like eight tests to run. Like it was like a whole bunch of things. I had to go for an ultrasound and blood work and like a whole panel of everything. And I got a call from her the day of her receiving the results, like from her other, you know, from somewhere else, she got this information into her email. She called me right away and said, you need to come into the clinic. I got your results back. We need to take care of this as soon as possible. Like there was no, I didn’t have to push her to believe me. And that was a really big deal because to be dismissed outright, to just be like, well, you’re not really feeling that, you’re just under pressure. And so, you know, we’re not gonna give you, I asked for tests and she flat out refused. The other doctor just said like, no, you don’t need them. That’s a waste of time. And so, yeah, so this doctor was able to spot something that I needed surgically taken care of. And thank God, six years later, I wouldn’t probably have been able to have my sons if that didn’t happen.

Your Definition of Quality Healthcare

Rob Oliver: Yeah, something definitely to be thankful for. So what does quality healthcare mean to you?

Ashley Waliczek: Well, I think the primary things that I would focus on, not having any experience in this area other than as a patient, would be building like mutual trust with the patient even or rapport, I guess that would be in a really, even in a really short interaction. To me, quality healthcare puts you as a participant in maintaining your health and doesn’t sort of like set you off to the sidelines. Like you don’t know anything. For me, you know, so much of it is just about like, I personally don’t wanna go see a doctor. Like I will put it off as long as I can, unless there’s a significant issue, like this is just how I am. And so like to have doctors understand that like, listen, if I’m coming and sharing like this concern with you, it’s important. And so like involve me in this, not just answer my questions, but like treat me as a whole person. And to me, somebody who’s practicing quality healthcare treats you as a whole human being and listens and tries to understand in those situations. And then, you know, works from that knowledge to provide you treatment, et cetera.

What Should Medical Providers Understand About You?

Rob Oliver: Yeah. It makes, oh, here I go with my catchphrase. It makes a lot of sense. So what do you wish your medical providers understood about you?

Ashley Waliczek: Well, yeah, I mean, I hinted that sort of, I wish they understood that I don’t want to need them. I don’t know how else to phrase it. You know, it’s one of those situations where it’s like, this is the last case. This is sort of a last resort for me. So I don’t want to come into this office. I don’t want to make this appointment. There’s nothing comfortable about it. I’m not used to it, especially as somebody without much of a medical history, it’s like, this is new, this is not something, I’m not in and out of hospital rooms on a daily, right? It’s just an uncomfortable thing for me. And so I think, I wish the healthcare providers understood that like I come in a little on the defensive. And so when you feel like, you know, you’re kind of like being misunderstood or judged from the outset, which I’ve experienced several times, that so cuts off my ability to communicate or to trust the person who’s giving me care. And maybe I’ve experienced that more so on the Canadian side because things tend to be a lot more rushed. There’s a lot of healthcare backlog. I didn’t really experience that so much in the US, but yeah, I think for me, that’s what healthcare providers need to know. Like I am nervous about this interaction. Like whatever you can do to get on my level and make me understand will like go a mile.

A Suggestion for Improving the Quality of Healthcare

Rob Oliver: Perfect. Last question for you. What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of healthcare?

Ashley Waliczek: I think what they can do is ensure that every person that comes through the doors of their practice is treated with the same like respect and empathy, whatever that looks like. And I know none of these things are really that healthcare related, I guess you could say, but the interpersonal side of it, I think is so key. I think the quality healthcare begins with a relationship as opposed to a sort of top-down, go do this, go do that, go do this, I’m right, you’re wrong, et cetera.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. Well said. You’re not the first person to say empathy and it’s gotta be something that is shared and is displayed and it makes a huge difference in that human connection that you feel as a patient. So yeah. So listen, Ashley, thank you so much for joining me for taking the time to share your thoughts, to share your story. And I appreciate you, I appreciate your support and I respect and appreciate your perspective on healthcare.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed by guests on the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast are solely the opinion of the guest. They are not to be misconstrued as medical diagnoses or medical advice. Please consult with a licensed medical professional before attempting any of the treatments suggested.

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