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St. Joseph's Care Group

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Partnering for Improved Care

Members of SJCG's Client & Family Partner Program at an Educational Retreat
Members of SJCG's Client & Family Partner Program
at an Educational Retreat

Date: 2019-08-20

Through the Client & Family Partners program, voices are heard and care gets better

This is part one of a two-part article that features the work of Client & Family Partners at St. Joseph's Care Group (SJCG).

Dave Browning* is attending a working group meeting. He is a subject matter expert working together with physiotherapists, clinical managers and others to implement and evaluate a new process for discharging people from hospital. What is unique about Dave is that he is there as a Client and Family Partner, and he is bringing the client perspective to clinical care.

Throughout our lives, we encounter the health care system in many ways: we are clients ourselves, caregivers for our loved ones, and support to our friends. And each time, we gain experience – some good, and some not so good - that could be shared to improve care now and for the future.

“We recognized that opportunities existed across St. Joseph’s Care Group to bring the client and family voice to the work that we do,” says Kim Callaghan, Director of Communications, Engagement & Client Relations with St. Joseph’s Care Group (SJCG). SJCG turned to its Client and Family Council for guidance. “The Council knew right from the beginning that we needed a program that fosters true partnership, where clients and family members work as equals alongside SJCG staff in the design of our programs, services and spaces.” That sentiment echoes in the name that the Council chose: the Client and Family Partner Program.

Now in its sixth year, the Client and Family Partner Program has over 50 members. “We have a group of dedicated volunteers who are passionate about sharing their experiences in order to influence how decisions are made,” says Jessica Saunders, Client & Community Relations Coordinator with SJCG. There are many ways to contribute, she notes - it could be as a member of a committee or working group, or sharing their care experience at a Board of Directors meeting, or even contributing to the design of a new space from defining its purpose to choosing the wall colour to the placement of furniture.

An outpatient client at SJCG for more than 20 years, Dave Browning* sees his participation in the Client & Family Partner Program as a chance to give back to an organization that he says has given him world-class mental and physical health care. As a Partner, he has been part of a variety of projects, committees and working groups. “It is highly rewarding to volunteer as a Client and Family Partner because St. Joseph’s Care Group has shown a genuine commitment to identifying and implementing improvements based on the input of clients and family members,” he says.

One highlight for Dave was being invited to join the interview panel for a senior leadership position. “I was able to ask directly how candidates for the role of Vice President viewed client participation in their portfolios; how they felt about involving clients systematically in everything that was material to the client. That bodes well for the future,” he says.

Both Dave and his partner are members of a working group tasked with implementing a new process called the Patient Oriented Discharge Summary (PODS), bringing the perspective of both client and caregiver to the project. PODS are designed to improve communications between clients, caregivers and staff prior to discharge from hospital. The goal is to make sure that all arrangements are in place prior to discharge, giving clients and caregivers the opportunity to ask questions about important points before the client leaves including what symptoms to watch for, when and how to take medications, and what to expect in terms of follow up appointments.

Similarly, Judy Mostow first became involved with the Client & Family Council and then with the Client & Family Partner Program as a way to contribute to SJCG’s work in the community. “I jumped at the opportunity. It’s been a totally rich and rewarding experience. The fact that I am talking to you today is because of all the therapists I encountered along my road to recovery,” says Judy, referring to her recovery from a severe stroke 14 years ago. As a member of various rehabilitative care committees, she’s been able to provide real-life feedback and recommendations based on her own experiences. For example, she’s been able to suggest changes to care approaches, like making a psychologist more readily available to stroke clients, and finding ways for physiotherapy to be more accessible over the downtime between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

When you visit SJCG’s sites, you can see for yourself the work of Client & Family Partners from the design of the Healing Lodge and outdoor seating as resting points leading to St. Joseph’s Hospital, to the courtyard gardens at Hogarth Riverview Manor, and even the updated signage at SJCG sites. Client & Family Partners help guide work at SJCG as a way to support the continued high quality care that our community knows, expects and deserves to receive.

Becoming involved is easy, notes Saunders: “We want to make sure that everyone who has received care or has been connected to St. Joseph’s Care Group in some way knows that the door is open to help shape our work. Becoming a Client & Family Partner is easy, and information about the process is available on our website.”

*name has been changed for privacy

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