Patient Advisors: What They Do and Why They Do It


“My body may be broken, but my voice is not,” says Angie Follett, one of several client and family advisors who has partnered with Eastern Health to improve care for all those who use the organization’s programs and services.

Angie Follett, client and family advisor with Eastern Health’s Client and Family Advisory Council for the Medicine Program

Client and family advisors are volunteers who collaborate with Eastern Health staff. They are patients and residents whose perspectives and voices help health providers make better decisions, shape policy, enhance programs and improve day-to-day interactions.

Angie has extensive health-care experience. She is a patient managing diagnoses for diabetes type II, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), auditory disorder, learning disorder, and a degenerative spine. She is also a loved one who supports family members as they access the health-care system.

She wishes to use her voice to support excellence in health care. It is with this in mind that Angie was inspired to become a volunteer client and family advisor with Eastern Health’s client and family advisory council for the Regional Medicine Program.

As an advisor, Angie collaborates on many initiatives. These range from enhancing the diagnostic imaging registration processes, to actively participating in various Hacking Health and Innovation Roundtable events. Angie also shares the family voice in the ongoing development of the Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) approach.

Angie embraces every day as an opportunity for change, to make it a better day. She’s guided by her daily mantra: ‘to be the change you want to see in the world,’ by Mahatma Gandhi.

Angie resides in St. John’s with her partner, and their furry family member, Chinook.

Karen Card, client and family advisor with Eastern Health’s Carbonear Client and Family Advisory Council

Karen Card joined Eastern Health’s Carbonear Client and Family Advisory Council, almost two years ago, at the Carbonear General Hospital.

Karen resides in Hearts Delight, Islington, with her husband and rescue pets, Gibbs and Tux. Her experience with health care is varied as she is a mom of four – now adult children, a caregiver for elderly parents, and a volunteer facilitator for a group for chronic disease management.

She believes in the importance of personal dignity and respect for all. According to Karen, “no act of volunteering is too small. You never know how you may touch one person’s life and make a positive difference.” She adds that “from volunteering, we learn as much as we give.”

Her role as an advisor sees Karen engaged in many meaningful activities, such as reviewing and providing feedback on policies that impact client, patient and resident care. She frequently engages in discussions related to various initiatives that support service improvement and safety in health care. Karen believes that it is also important to work with staff and physicians to strive for excellence care.

Karen is passionate about partnering with Eastern Health to support improvements in health care.

Robert Meaney, a patient and family advisor with Eastern Health’s Provincial Cancer Care Patient and Family Advisory Council

Robert resides in St. John’s with his wife and son. He is a cancer survivor and recently celebrated his five-year cancer-free (remission) milestone. At the encouragement of a co-worker, Robert responded to Eastern Heath’s open call for the Provincial Cancer Care Patient and Family Advisory Council.

While Robert acknowledges that he cannot impact someone’s diagnosis or illness, he can support the service improvements that can make a difference for others. This notion inspired him to become a volunteer patient and family advisor.

As part of his role, Robert participates in many meaningful ventures. For example, he supports increased awareness and access to cancer care patient navigators; promotes early access to palliative care; and participates in planning for client experience week and patient safety week activities. Robert is a key partner who suggests enhancements to the cancer care website to ensure easy access to information for patients and their families.

“My goal is that by sharing my own perspective and insights I can provide Eastern Health with the opportunity to enhance care for other patients and their families,” Robert says.

Angie, Robert and Karen encourage others to consider how they, too, can volunteer with Eastern Health to make difference in health-care service delivery.

At Eastern Health, we know that engaging patients and families is essential to safe care, so we work with them to better understand their experience and needs. Working together, we can build a safer, more sustainable health-care system that is responsive to the needs of patients, clients, residents and families. Advisors donate their time to share where they have faced barriers getting care, and partner with health providers to find innovative solutions to overcome those challenges.

During Canada Patient Safety Week, Eastern Health would like to recognize the valuable work of client/patient and family advisors across health organizations – and more importantly, thank each one of them for their dedication to improving health care for all.

To learn more about our continued commitment to patient safety, quality and client- and family-centred care, please visit our website at www.easternhealth.ca/CFCC. ■

This story was written by Darlene Didham, client- and family-centred care consultant with Eastern Health, in collaboration with volunteer client/patient and family advisors Karen Card, Robert Meaney and Angie Follett.

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