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Health Improvement Practitioner has a big impact in a short time

Wednesday 21 April 2021

There’s no doubt that WellSouth Health Improvement Practitioner, Rachael Bentley, is a welcome addition to the practice team in East Otago Health. Just weeks after joining the staff at the busy Palmerston general practice, a common refrain from the nurses and doctors is now: “Come, let’s go see Rachael.”   

A Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP) is a health professional with mental health experience who helps clients or patients to take positive steps to improve their well-being.     

Rachael works two days a week at the practice, offering 15 to 30 minute appointments to assist clients to take steps for positive behaviour change.  

“I help patients with stress or lifestyle issues that are a barrier and may be preventing someone from moving ahead and making changes,” Rachael says, adding her role is not about providing counselling. “I encourage people to think about what is important, to get them to be curious and open to change, and to start to take positive steps for change.” 

The aim is that at the end of an appointment, a patient leaves with a plan to start to improve their well-being or, in some cases, with a referral to another service that might be able to help.

Clients are usually referred to Rachael by a GP or practice nurse, but they can make appointments directly as well.

East Otago Health practice manager, Jane Roberts, says the role helps take pressure of GPs and nurses and addresses the gap in rural health to provide more care for patients and whānau.

“Our main centres have access to more options, so the HIP role really works well in a rural practice like ours,” she says. “Rachael is already having a big impact for patients and our practice.”

In addition to her work at East Otago, Rachael works as a HIP at South Hill Medical in Oamaru as well. 

Jodie Black, WellSouth Access and Choice Clinician Services Manager, says Health Improvement Practitioners encourage small changes that can have a big impact. “They work to support patients to achieve better self-management of their own health and well-being. Their approach is values-based – so what is important, what will make difference?”

Access and Choice

Rachael is one of 13 Health Improvement Practitioners based at general practices in Otago and Southland, helping to make health and well-being support more accessible across the district.

In the coming months, a Health Coach will also join the practice further supporting patients to achieve their health goals. Complementary to the work of the HIP, a Health Coach focuses more on supporting patients with chronic conditions, diabetes for example, and to improve their health and how they manage their condition.

A Community Support worker will also be made available to the practice to assist patients who need some practical support in achieving their goals or connecting with other supports.

All three roles – Health Improvement Practitioners, Health Coaches and Community Support Workers - are part of the Access and Choice service, which, by placing extra mental health and well-being support in general practices, reduces barriers to people accessing the care they need.

WellSouth Access and Choice

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