The Fruit of Partnerships: Client and family advisors

Just over a year ago, Eastern Health formalized Client- and Family-Centred Care (CFCC), a philosophy of care that ensures patients, clients, residents and families have a voice and become active partners in the delivery of health care.

As part of this commitment, the organization embarked in the recruitment and creation of advisory councils that span various disciplines and geographic areas. To date, we, at Eastern Health, have partnered with over two dozen clients and family advisors on a wide range of initiatives and councils.

Meet Doris, a client and family advisor

Doris Murphy, client and family advisor with Eastern Health’s Family Presence Advisory Council

Doris Murphy, a native of Bay Roberts, is among the first client and family advisors to partner with Eastern Health.

Doris joined the Family Presence Advisory Council, based at the Carbonear General Hospital, in the fall of 2016, and has since collaborated on the development and implementation of a family presence policy for the organization.

“Considering I had knowledge on the administrative side of health care and, having had experience in policy development, I thought this was a perfect opportunity for me to offer feedback,” says Doris.

“It is a privilege for me to be a part of the Family Presence Advisory Council, and I am proud of the work that has been accomplished within a few short months.”

“I reside in Bay Roberts with Ted, my husband of 39 years. We have three children who have gifted us with four happy grandchildren.”

Doris’ career spanned 33 years, with 28 of those working in administration at the Carbonear General Hospital. In 2011, on her retirement, Doris was appointed a Trustee on the Trinity-Conception-Placentia Health Foundation (TCPHF), where she remains an active member.

The fruit of partnerships: Family presence policy 

Eastern Health’s family presence policy was developed in collaboration with the Family Presence Advisory Council. The policy enables patients, residents and clients to designate one family member, or other loved one, to provide support to them while they are receiving care.

What is special about this policy, is that the designated support person can be present with their loved one outside of visitation hours, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Support persons are recognized as an important part of the health-care team, and critical for decision-making.

“Being honest, personally, I could envision so many positive sides for all – family, client and health-care staff in the hospital and long-term care settings with the implementation of a family presence policy,” says Doris.

The work of this council, and the core elements of the policy, are particularly close to Doris’ heart.

“While over the years my own families have lost young and not-so-young family members, both in a hospital setting and caring for them at home, my personal story is intertwined with a dear friend, Eva, whom I met in 1995 after she had lost both her daughter and husband within a short time,” Doris explains.

“In the 1950s, Eva and her family emigrated from northern Germany to Carbonear. German is my second language, so a bond formed between us and our friendship grew over the years until a stroke admitted her to long-term care.

“As one would when losing self-dependence at any age, Eva had pleasant days and not so pleasant days. There were times of refusing medication, not eating, frustration and depression, non-participation in daily events, etc., that I quickly found myself working closely with health-care staff (nurses, physicians, social workers, physiotherapists, dietary and housekeeping staff) to ensure Eva’s well-being, and to try to make Eva’s life in her new surroundings as comfortable and pleasant as possible.

“My role as family for Eva, with good two-way communication and as a partner with the health-care team, led to concerns being addressed as they arose and resolved to mutual satisfaction.

“Eva remained in the nursing home five years, and passed away a few months shy of her 100th birthday,” Doris recalls.

“Although there was no family presence policy in existence at that time, every effort was made by the nursing home to be as accommodating as possible within its existing policies, for both Eva, the client; and myself, as her family member.

“I believe that communication was paramount on both sides ensuring that a healthy rapport was established early on addressing issues as they arose. I have no regrets, I did everything I could, and that is so very comforting to me.

The family presence policy is currently in effect at the Carbonear General Hospital and Long-Term Care facility. The learnings gained from implementation in these sites will be used to support the implementation of the policy across the region.

“For now, as Ted and I enjoy our retirement and do our best to focus on the good in our lives, I am inwardly very pleased to know I had some small part in bringing to life Eastern Health’s family presence policy, and the comfort it brings to all those currently in hospital and in long-term care,” Doris says. “One never knows when it may be our turn.”

Family Presence Advisory Council (l-r): Alice Blundon, advisor; Wayne Smith, division manager, Cardiac-Critical Care/Emergency Department/Paramedicine-Medical Transport; Joanne Howell, senior site manager; Tonya Somerton, division manager, Surgical Services and Children and Women’s Health; Doris Murphy, advisor; Gayle Reid, clinical educator; Jennifer Forward, occupational therapist. Missing from photo: Darlene Didham, CFCC Manager; Denise Chant, quality clinical safety leader; Donna Warford, resident care manager; Krista Dawson, regional social work coordinator; Lisa Penney, RN dialysis; Louise Roach, program manager, long-term care; Sheila Whalen, care facilitator, Surgical Services and Children and Women’s Health; Laura Baker, long-term care; Lydia Downing, advisor; and Carolyn Jerrett, administrative assistant.

There are no special qualifications required to become a client and family advisor. Patients, residents, clients and family members who have had experience receiving care at Eastern Health, and who are looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities, can apply to become client and family advisors.

Eastern Health is now recruiting client and family advisors for its new Client and Family Advisory Council for the Regional Medicine Program. To learn more, and to apply, please visit our website at:

Families and friends are more than visitors, they are partners in care

This article was co-written by Darlene Didham, client- and family-centred care manager, and Doris Murphy, client and family advisor with Eastern Health’s Family Presence Advisory Council.

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