Finding and applying for a health consumer role
Have you decided to look for a role as a health consumer representative within a health service so that you can make a difference to healthcare?
Are you applying for a health consumer role and want to learn more about the way health services recruit?
Read on to learn more about:
- How to find health consumer roles
- How to decide if a role is right for me
- What does a typical application process look like?
How to find health consumer roles
There are a number of ways you can find out about available health consumer roles:
- Become a member of Health Consumers NSW (or the lead health consumer organisation in your state), let us know you are interested in becoming a consumer representative and register to receive our newsletters and email alerts.
- Become a member of a specific health consumer organisation or support group and indicate that you are interested in becoming a consumer representative.
- Contact your local and regional health services and ask about how to get involved in their consumer engagement program (some services call this a consumer and community participation program). Do this by phoning or checking the service’s website.
- Even if regional health services are not currently recruiting for consumer roles, ask if there is a community newsletter service or register of interest that you can sign up for.
- Look at noticeboards at the health services you use.
- Keep an eye out for advertisements in local papers and community noticeboards.
- Ask around – your personal and community networks are a great source of information.
How to I decide if a role is right for me?
Health consumers bring a great deal of knowledge and experience to any role they carry out. When you are deciding whether to apply for a particular role, you may feel unsure about the skills and knowledge required and whether you will be comfortable in the role. The application process can be complex and difficult, especially if you haven’t been through a modern recruitment process before.
Rest assured your knowledge and experience as a health consumer are highly valuable skills and you will have other skills gained throughout your personal and work life that you can bring to the role. Ask yourself:
- Does the role interest me?
- Is the role in an area that I have knowledge and experience?
- Do I represent myself or a group or network of consumers?
- If I represent others, how will I determine their views and how will I feed back to them the outcomes of the work?
- What is the time commitment of the role – both face-to-face (e.g.in meetings) and in preparation (some roles require extensive reading and commenting on documents)?
- Do I have the resources to carry out this role? What resources can the health service provide to me?
- Is there any payment for carrying out this role (e.g. sitting fees or reimbursement of costs such as parking or travel)?
Go through the information about the role making a note of questions and how you meet the criteria. If you can, discuss the role with a friend or relative with experience in applying for jobs and ask their advice. Using your list of questions you have about the role, phone the contact person to discuss your questions. Often the contact person is involved in the recruitment process and talking to them on the phone first will help you to feel more comfortable through the rest of the process.
Try using this self-assessment tool provided by the Health Issues Centre in Victoria to decide if you are ready for the role you are considering.
What does a typical application process look like?
Every health service will have their own process for recruiting health consumers however they will generally involve these steps:
- You indicate your interest in the role – e.g. through a paper application form or a form on the website.
- TIP: Whenever filling in long answers on a web form – type your answers into a document first and save, then copy and paste them into the form. This protects your work in case the form doesn’t submit or you get interrupted. You will need to careful of any limits to the number of words you can use.
- You may be invited to a meeting with one or two people to talk about your interest – often the participation coordinator and sometimes another consumer representative. This is usually a fairly informal meeting such as a chat at a coffee shop.
- Sometimes there is a third step involving some more formal forms and processes that are required by the organisation’s recruitment policies.
- Here is an example of the health consumer recruitment process used at South Western Sydney Local Health District.
- This is the application form to join the consumer and community program used at South Western Sydney Local Health District (Reproduced with permission from the SWSLHD Consumer and Community Participation Framework.)
Next: What do consumer representatives do with health services?