Amy Cohen and her son Noah Cohen, a patient at The University of Vermont Children's Hospital.

Amy Cohen and her son Noah Cohen, a patient at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital.

A couple of years ago, while my son, Noah, was recuperating from a surgery, I noticed a flyer for the Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC). The flyer described the opportunity to participate as a volunteer advisor, providing feedback and perspective on hospital policies and procedures, and sharing your story to foster a better understanding of what it means to practice patient- and family-centered care. Interested families were encouraged to contact the nurse manager on the very floor where my son was recuperating.

I remember reading that flyer and thinking, “Yes. I have something to share. I have ideas and input that I want heard.” I thought about walking down the hall and introducing myself. But then, remembering that I hadn’t slept or showered in several days, I recognized that I might not be making the best judgments or best impression. Did I really want to spend more time in the hospital? So I did nothing.

But several months later, undoubtedly more grounded, I saw that flyer again at a local conference and I realized that I did indeed want to pursue the opportunity to have a seat at the table. I made the call and shortly thereafter joined the PFAC, where I have had the opportunity to participate on committees and special projects, present at Grand Rounds, and work in partnership with a group of other committed and dedicated patients, families, and staff all with the goal of improving the delivery, quality, and safety of care.

I initially became involved for multiple reasons. I wanted to make meaning of the long and significant medical journey we had been on. I wanted others to learn from our experiences. I wanted to assure that the health care system my son will continue to interact with throughout his life is designed to meet his needs and the needs of our family. And, it has been a pretty incredible opportunity to do all of those things.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I am now in the early weeks of a new formal position as Patient and Family Centered Care Project Manager here at the University of Vermont Medical Center. I am beyond proud of this organization for embracing Patient-and Family-Centered Care as a strategic priority and I am so excited to be in this new role, helping to set goals and develop plans as we move forward in our efforts to partner and collaborate with patients and families.

Are you, or do you know of, a patient and/or family member like me who might be interesting in collaborating to promote the core principles of patient- and family-centered care including dignity and respect, information-sharing, participation and collaboration across the organization? If so, I would love to hear from you to talk more about the variety of ways to become involved. We are eagerly recruiting new patient/ family advisors. Please give me a call at 802-847-4777 or send me an email at Amy.Cohen@UVMhealth.org.

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