Fraser Health is seeking dedicated volunteers from Abbotsford and Mission to help improve health-care experiences in the community.
The Patient and Family Advisory Council is a group of patients, families, caregivers and people with experience in the provincial health system who can give feedback to local professionals and create a dialogue on what can be improved.
“Having that patient and family perspective at the table really enhances the operations of the site, or the community health services that we provide, because they’re really able to ask some really important questions,” said Laura Klein, regional co-ordinator of the council. “Their goal is really to advance person-centred care [by including] patient and family involvement in health-care planning and delivery.”
The Abbotsford and Mission council has been in existence since 2018, and is one of many such councils set up around the province. Fraser Health is looking to add qualified volunteers to the current team of four. These qualifications include experience as either a direct patient or caregiver, or having experience within the Fraser Health system.
The volunteers meet regularly at both monthly meetings and other meetings at Fraser Health sites, as well as work on projects and different committees. They sign confidentiality agreements, learn about medical acronyms and language, and provide input to those working in the field.
Teresa Stewart, a volunteer on the council, said the work they perform is critical because many health-care professionals have never experienced being a patient or caregiver.
“They have a professional role [but] may not have walked the journey, been in the bed themselves or sat beside the bed,” she said. “For example, we might look through an educational brochure that [Fraser Health] is trying to hand out to people, but we look at it as a layperson and say, hold on, what do you mean by that?
“[Patients] may be under so much stress, exhausted, or they’re feeling unwell and then they have to go back and read this brochure that’s written in a high-level medical language.”
Stewart spent 12 years as the primary caregiver for her mother – who had renal disease – before she died. She had spent a significant amount of time at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and was approached by Fraser Health to see if she would consider relaying her experiences to the council.
The volunteers work on reviewing documents and written communications that are given to patients and families and letting Fraser Health know what makes sense and what’s relevant.
Stewart, for example, was recently working on a global literature review from other patient and family advisory councils in other countries and summarizing what was learned for implementation at Fraser Health.
“[Patient and family advisory councils] are transforming a culture… This is a actually a global medical shift,” Stewart said. “I can’t get it across enough how much the staff have embraced this, embraced our voices. It’s almost disconcerting how much they want to make decisions with our perspectives.
“The goal is to integrate everything in a far more seamless manner,” she said. “It’s not a perfect system, but it’s eager for change.”
Klein said the council is looking to recruit at least two qualified people who are able to sit on the monthly council and attend the other projects around their own availability.
“When we include all perspectives at the table, it just makes a holistic team,” Klein said. “It’s a really great opportunity for the community to get involved in health care.”
Stewart said volunteer work on the council is part of giving back in her mother’s memory: “That’s just been my role in the family.”
Interested candidates can email or call the Patient Voices Network: email@example.com / 1.877.282.1919.