"Giving voice to the patient" as a Patient Family Advisor: Judy Porter

Judy Porter, Patient Family Advisor
Judy Porter, Patient Family Advisor

NSHA has made a commitment to involve citizens in setting priorities and making decisions that matter to them,  impacting their lives, our community and the whole health care system. To do this, we are looking for patients, their family members and/or caregivers to volunteer as active members of one or more of our teams. These members are called Patient Family Advisors.

Judy Porter is a Patient Family Advisor, offering her experience and insights as a patient to help us improve the health system. We asked Judy a few questions about being a Patient Family Advisor. Here are her responses:

Why do you think engagement of patients and families is important?

Engagement and patient- and family-centered care is important because it gives voice to the patient in a system where individual voices are sometimes overlooked in the bigger challenges facing health care. Some of the most important changes that can be made are those that sit in the hands of the patient’s immediate health care team and may involve small changes, invisible in the context of the larger system, where concerns are focused on the big picture issues such as wait times and bed occupancy rates.

How has your feedback as a Patient Family Advisor been used?

My feedback has been used, considered, partially used or, in some cases, not used, in many and varied ways. I have literally been rolled in a wheelchair in the taped outline design of a new patient room to determine the appropriateness of the design and equipment placement. As a result of a difficult experience, I was able to show a short-term clinic how a patient may perceive their time there. Now, a discharge document is generated for people leaving this clinic with a list of next steps and contact information where they can reach out for help if they need further support. I have provided recommendations that have been taken to heart, and in some cases, seemingly ignored, depending upon the value placed by individual committees upon having a non-professional, non-clinical layperson providing feedback on professional, clinical issues.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other Patient Family Advisors?

To Patient and Family Advisors, I would encourage you to bring your experiences (good and bad) forward, in your own voice; in your own style, in the areas that are important to you, in a way that changes can be made for the better. To Nova Scotia Health Authority, I would say that you’ve started a journey of a thousand miles and have only taken the first few steps. Follow the path you’ve started. Listen to your patients. Include their learnings in your planning. Don’t be afraid of change. To both, I would say, be patient.

Learn more about becoming a Patient Family Advisor at www.nshealth.ca/pfa