This week we mark an important milestone in our journey towards increased patient-and family-centered care (PFCC). The number of patient/family advisors working in partnership with us now exceeds 100.
Patient/family advisors are patients or family members of patients who have received care at our organization and who have volunteered to work in partnership with us to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of care. Patient/family advisors bring the patient and family voice and perspective to planning and decision making across The University of Vermont Medical Center. In a relatively short amount of time, their sphere of influence has increased dramatically and those who have had the opportunity to partner with our advisors have felt their impact in many ways.
Our patient/family advisors represent diverse perspectives. Some are current or past patients, others come to the work because of the experiences they have had supporting loved ones through a significant illness or medical crisis. Some struggle with chronic illnesses and thus identify themselves as high-end users of health care services, while others access the University of Vermont Medical Center primarily for primary care and the occasional specialty visit. Their backgrounds and experiences vary, but they are united in their commitment to our organization, to recognition that patients must be at the center of health care, and to our belief that working in collaboration with leaders, staff and providers can significantly impact the quality and safety of care and the overall patient and family experience.
It’s meaningful that the achievement of this PFCC milestone coincides with National Patient Safety Awareness Week because the connection between patient safety and the work of our patient/family advisors is an important one. Formally and intentionally partnering with patients and families has been shown to have an impact on safety, and including the patient and family perspective in work groups, projects and committees can help identify and problem solve important safety considerations.
Our patient/family advisors have been involved in over 95 different committees and work groups and many of those teams are highly focused on safety specifically. Advisors have worked on efforts to improve medication reconciliation-an important step in providing safe care and assuring excellent outcomes for patients. Advisors have been engaged in infection prevention efforts and have provided consultation on how to better educate and engage patients and families in understanding and adhering to infection prevention precautions. Another committee involved patient/family advisors in monitoring and responding to medication related issues.
We are excited to have patient/family advisors participating on the new Nurse Professional Governance Councils, including the Safety and Quality Global Council- where they will have the opportunity to participate as full team members. And particularly important, our patient/family advisors have been influential in the creation and/or review of many patient education materials designed to help patients and family members better understand their care team, become familiar with questions they might want to ask to assure that they are receiving the safest and most appropriate care, and when to ask for help or raise concerns. Nationally, these efforts designed to encourage patients’ active involvement in their own care have been recognized as a key patient safety strategy.
We are excited to see these efforts and the span and scope of the work of our patient/family advisors increase over time. By continuing to embrace this level of collaboration and prioritize the importance of having the patient/family voice as a central part of our patient safety efforts, we will achieve great outcomes for patients and families.
This week we will be posting daily blogs with perspectives on safety and letting you know how you can partner with us on patient safety. Answer the question at the end of each daily blog and be entered to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card made possible by our partnership with the New England Federal Credit Union. Thank you for joining us in recognizing National Patient Safety Awareness Week and for your participation!
Partner with us, speak up, and don’t leave patient safety to chance!
The Patient Family Advisor Group at University of Vermont Medical Center