Staff profile – meet the team:
Laura Jones, Portfolio Quality Assurance Lead, ISSLA
Laura Jones was working for one of the largest HIV organisations in New York when she set a goal to move to New Zealand, inspired by the urge for a fresh start. Twelve years after boarding the plane to a country she knew little about, she now calls Christchurch home and has been part of the South Island Alliance team since 2016.
“I’d always wanted to live abroad,” says Laura – pronounced Lara (Welsh spelling) – who lives in Lyttelton with her partner, a dog, two cats and a few chickens. Born in Ohio, she grew up mostly in Southern California and spent some time in Florida and Washington DC, before graduating with a Masters of Social Work from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Laura then started her first professional position at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York, supporting people with HIV from various backgrounds and cultures, who were also dealing with a range of issues including addiction, incarceration, sexual identity, the challenges of living as a transgender individual, as well as mental and sexual health concerns. “It was everything all in one pot. It was challenging and very multi-focused, but I loved it. And I was there just as the HIV drugs were changing, so the disease went from being a death sentence to a long-term health issue.”
Following her emigration in 2006, Laura landed a regional manager position with the South Island New Zealand AIDS Foundation, where she stayed for six years. After spending a couple of years travelling between Wellington and Christchurch for the role, she left and began working as operations manager for an alcohol and drug helpline – which soon folded after the merging of national helplines.This is when an opportunity to join the South Island Alliance opened up. Stepping into Martin Kane’s role as the Mental Health and Addictions Service Level Alliance (SLA) facilitator while he was on secondment, Laura says it was interesting to learn about things from a DHB perspective. “And the amazing group of talented and knowledgeable people who work here made it all the more enjoyable.”
Upon Martin’s return and another job opening within the Alliance, Laura joined the Information Services SLA permanently in June, in her current role as Portfolio Quality Assurance Lead, supporting the implementation of regional IS activities. Working in conjunction with the regional programme leads, she works to ensure projects are implemented in a way that meets business needs and delivers agreed benefits, and that there is a smooth transition from project state to business as usual.Laura is currently working on hospital radiology e-orders and e-sign off – both designed to turn paper processes into electronic processes. “I’m also helping to create a wellbeing tool, which combines a range of different plans used in mental health – from transition to recovery and treatment plans – all into the one tool,” she says. “All the various health care professionals involved in the patient’s care will be able access and update the information via Health Connect South and HealthOne.”
Facilitating the conversation between clinicians and information services to create the mental health wellbeing tool, Laura says she is enjoying the learning curve. “How often do you get to jump into something new? I like that. And while it’s a long process, you can see how it will make an impact at the coalface, in day-to-day care – this is how people can get better care.”
Laura has a strong focus on consumer engagement, using a co-design and co-creation model for the multi-year project. “My vision is about keeping the consumer at the centre from the beginning, rather than waiting until the tool is finished and asking for their feedback. While it’s more time consuming this way and would sometimes be easier to be an autocrat, I know that in the long term you will get more buy-in and the tool will get used, as opposed to something that is forced onto people.”
In her spare time, Laura’s main interests include running and roller derby, which she joined seven years ago to train as a referee. “I’ve loved skating since I was a kid and it’s an amazing, supportive community to be a part of. And I started running to be fitter for roller derby – now I’m doing marathons and have just started training for the Hanmer Half.”