Spotlight: Karen Dinsmore on her role as Patient & Family Advisor with the Brant Community Healthcare System

Karen Dinsmore, a retired social worker, completed training in April 2013 to become the first in the role of a Patient and Family Advisor volunteer with the Brant Community Healthcare System (BCHS). Always a champion of the Brant Community Health Care System, she wanted to give back to her community, particularly the Brantford General Hospital (BGH).

In the position of a Patient and Family Advisor, Karen has been able to represent clients of BCHS by giving a voice to concerns and putting forth ideas for improvement on a variety of issues that many individuals are unable or unwilling to express. Karen remarked "I have been pleasantly surprised by not only the willingness to hear about patient and family experiences, but by the genuine encouragement to share ideas that would help improve patient care, while in hospital and along the journey of transitioning the patient to another care facility or home."

Since first becoming a volunteer, Karen has been very involved sitting on various committees, attended focus groups, and Value Stream Mapping, in which problems are defined and solutions gleaned, then implemented on a trial basis. "I have also had the honour of attending two Rapid Improvement Events; one regarding the Emergency Department and the other about strokes. It was amazing to witness how in one day, efficiencies were found which would add value to patients care. As a volunteer in the Emergency Department I saw first-hand that many ideas were implemented immediately." In early 2014 Karen was invited to attend Health Link Steering Committee meetings along with community health care partners. The focus of this group is to improve the care for patients with complex medical conditions, using an innovative team approach of collaboration. When all members come together and hear one another, it is easier to see cracks in the system and find ways of working together to make improvements.

Karen mentioned that before becoming a volunteer she had no idea just how many meetings hospital personnel attended to continuously look for ways of improving patient care, wait times, and elimination of waste in both time and money. "As a sitting member of the Quality Council, it was quite evident from the start that the focus is always on the patient; complaints are not just paid lip service, but employees constantly look for ways of making qualitative improvements throughout the whole system."

"It is indeed a privilege to provide feedback on behalf of the larger community and to bring my perspective, as well as other patient and family members that I engage with, to the table knowing that we will be heard. I encourage others to get involved as a Patient and Family Advisor, express thoughts and ideas, with the goal of realizing more positive changes in an organization that is always looking for ways to be better."

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