Can we slow this elevator down please?

6 months into my NES AHP careers fellowship journey and I now feel like I ‘get’ my own project. It seems like a peculiar thing to say, especially as I thought I ‘got’ it back in February – but in hindsight, I didn’t really.

I can now supplement my passion for the cause with genuine understanding and knowledge of the topic. Endless hours of dissecting all available research on paediatric attendance and parent engagement have certainly helped. As have the many pieces of advice and pearls of wisdom from helpful NHS Lothian colleagues I’ve managed to trap into having a conversation with me. Yet, despite all the self-admiration above, I still struggle to describe my project in an elevator pitch

….unless we are talking about a particularly slow elevator.


When my fellowship project has come to an end, we will have created the EASI (Engagement and Attendance Support Initiative). The EASI will be a live framework which a community health service can adopt to help increase attendance, encourage parent engagement and encourage consistency of approach in their area. The EASI will be split into different levels of support (starting at universal level support for all families). The level will be identified by the requester with the family before making a request for assistance, following a discussion about ‘is now the right time?’. Each level will consist of a range of initiatives and guidelines for use with families at that level.
A service can tailor their EASI with the initiatives/guidelines which are workable and appropriate for them.  We will be tailoring the initial EASI to meet the unique demands of a children’s Speech and Language Therapy service within Edinburgh. We can then look at the EASI being adapted for other locations and different Allied Health Professions, if interest exists.

Ok, so someone is standing in front of me (in this elevator) who knows nothing about the project that I am putting all this energy and time into.

What do I tell them first? The rationale for doing it….the experiences that have convinced me there is a need for something like this….The interesting ideas I’ve come across in international research…..

No no, just get to the point

…but how will I make it clear that I’m not implying that good practices are not happening across Lothian already (because they are!)….do I need to clearly define what I mean by ‘engagement’; it can mean a range of things… they need to know that as well as consultation with staff and service leads, I’ll also be getting the perspective of families who have a history of not attending appointments….

Hold on; is it even socially appropriate to talk to strangers in an elevator?

Ding the elevator has reached its intended destination and I have yet to utter a word!

I’ve gradually become comfortable with the realisation that most people don’t want to know all the detail that is racing through my head – and they will quickly regret showing any interest in the first place if I launch into a 9 verse soliloquy on the validity of appointment reminder systems.
In reality, I am slowly getting better at explaining the project in a relatively concise way that leaves the listener with at least some idea of what it’s all about.

The next time I’m speaking with someone starting a project I will reassure them that the only person you need to worry about being able to explain your project to at first is yourself – and it’s perfectly acceptable if it takes you a few months to get there. To steal one of Steven Covey’s 7 habits:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

When we have finished talking about their project I might even guide them to an elevator and tell them all about mine!

TomProfileAuthor Info:

Tom Costelloe

(Children’s Speech and Language Therapist and NES AHP careers fellow)

If you would like to contact Tom about his project you can e-mail him on
@slt_tom on twitter


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