This past winter, Eastern Health embarked on a new pilot project to help French-speaking patients and families improve their navigation and access to the health-care system.
The new francophone health system navigator (FHSN) links patients to available resources, information and people best suited to help them improve their health and quality of life. It is a pilot project sponsored by the Réseau santé en français de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador (RSFTNL) and Health Canada, serving a rapidly growing population of thousands of people whose first official language is French in Newfoundland and Labrador.
This week, we met with Lynn Miller, RN and Eastern Health’s new francophone health system navigator, to learn more about her and her new role.
Q. Tell us about yourself.
I was born, raised and educated in St. John’s. I learned French, in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and lived there for a few years.
After returning to Newfoundland and Labrador, I returned to school and completed my nurse’s training at the Salvation Army Grace General Hospital School of Nursing, where I started to work right after graduation. Since then, I have enjoyed a 30+ year career as a registered nurse in various services throughout Eastern Health.
Q. What is your current role?
I recently accepted the position of francophone health system navigator. In our province, we have a fast-growing French-speaking population and I am delighted to see that Eastern Health is taking steps to ensure that the best care available is provided to all. I believe that there should not be barriers to health care and it is very exciting to be part of this project!
Due to the current pandemic, it has been a challenge to meet with all stakeholders face-to-face. But I have been able to connect through technology and have lively meetings via ZOOM. I am amazed at the work being completed in this new fashion!
Why were you interested in becoming a patient navigator for Francophones?
During my career, I have always provided navigation services and support to French-speaking people during their admission to hospital or to attend consults and appointments. As a nurse, I know the issues that arise when there are misunderstandings or miscommunication, and I believe, no one should be put in that situation. You do what you can to help people. That’s the way I was raised to treat people.
What does your day-to-day work look like? How do you help patients get the care they need?
I receive referrals from people by telephone, email or in person. When I speak to patients and their families, we identify together their current need, and I direct them to the person best suited for their health-care needs.
I also meet personally with clients, who may need more assistance to complete forms and documents.
Many people are unsure where to turn to ask questions. After so many years in health care, I can usually reach out to someone in the system for guidance and find the best information or health-care provider, suited to their needs. There are many online resources available and there is also the support and resources of the Réseau de Santé TNL. Everyone is more than willing to help.
Could you share a special highlight from your career?
There have been many and varied moments, as I’ve worked in many areas during my long career. I have been touched by so many lives and stories. I will pick one of my last and most precious memories.
Working in long-term care, with people suffering dementia, I met a beautiful, elderly lady. She was dearly loved and cherished by her family. We took an instant liking to each other on day one!
She would accompany me on my many rounds to other units. Sometimes, when someone was playing music, we would sit for a while, and she would sing. We would always stop for a visit in the little chapel before we returned to her unit.
One day, out of the blue, she asked me, “Have I always known you?” I answered, “No. We’re brand-new friends!” She responded, “Then why do I love you so much?” I loved her too! She still has a special place in my heart. There have been many happy, sad and poignant moments in this work.
If you could spend a day in another role in the organization, what would it be?
If I could spend one day in another role in the organization, I would have to pick, Pastoral Care. I have seen the peace and support that pastoral care workers bring to people. Their wise words have comforted many people struggling with grief and loss. Also, their cheerful visits and support during their regular visits to the wards, bring a calming presence to most people.
Any last words?
I believe that there is nothing more worrying to people than being in need of health care, and not being able to find it and not being able to understand the information given. Especially when it involves a trip to Emergency and hospitalization is required.
A lot of times, it is not just a language barrier, but a culture shock. I know from my own experiences that the francophone health system navigation service will make a difference to the Francophone community.
How do people access this service?
If you or your family speaks French or prefers to receive health information in French, simply contact the francophone health system navigator by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone: 709-699-2409.
You can also visit www.easternhealth.ca/FHSN for more information. ∎
This story was written by Lynn Miller, RN, Francophone health system navigator with Melisa Valverde, CHE, digital communications manager and member of Eastern Health’s diversity and inclusion committee.