I've recently had the privilege of working in a great collaborative partnership with two different professionals: Alf Collins to write an editorial in the BMJ on the Oldham Commission; and Trevor Kettle to co-design and co-deliver workshops on patient and public involvement in healthcare professional education at Southampton University.
I know there is a lot of talk about what it feels like when patients and patient leaders aren't able to work in these kinds of environments, so I wanted to document what is feels like when it does work - to prove it is possible!
From the get-go of both pieces of work, I was there. I wasn't drafted in as an after-thought. This meant that our conversations about what our outcomes and output would be were shared and determined within our partnership, so we had the opportunity address what mattered to both of us.
As things progressed, each stage was an open conversation. This continual dialogue meant I wasn't just 'commenting' on what was produced, but producing it in partnership.
Throughout both pieces of work, the sharing of knowledge and links was in two directions. I've got a lot of respect for Alf and Trevor for their open attitude and willingness to learn from me, and their openness to support me in my learning and development. This felt like it removed hierarchies as it was clear we all brought something valuable to the conversations and supported each other.
This equality was also reflected in more subtle ways. In each case, both myself and the professional were either both paid or both not paid. Although not an overt aspect of any partnership, it creates a strong foundation for the rest of these qualities to develop.
I felt like I had joint ownership of the final product, be it an article or workshop, which made me feel proud of our work. Not to say that I'm not dedicated to other things where there isn't this constructive environment, but this sense of ownership really motivated me to make the output as good as it could be.
In the case of the workshop, the feedback and reflection afterwards was not just a conversation I was invited to, but an open dialogue initiated between us.
It felt really right and satisfying to be working in this, and I know that Alf and Trevor both felt the same way too. It isn't just for our benefit that we talk about this way of working! And it is feasible!