Change Day: A Simple But An Important Change In Communication Can Have A Lasting Impact

Guest Blog by the Chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Committee, Coreen Duke-Carroll

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My desire to become an advocate for patients and caregivers began in 2004 when I landed in the ER and was hospitalized with an unusual condition that required months of rehabilitation. Then in 2012, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.

From 2012 until my mother’s death in 2016, I was her primary caregiver. I helped to care for my mother through her cancer treatments and through the tragic loss of my sister in 2014. My sister lost her life at the hands of her husband whom had been struggling with mental illness and addictions for many years.

Caring for my mother while journeying through the loss of my sister was one of the most heart wrenching and difficult times of my life. The loving support of my family and friends was immeasurable, and the amazing support I received from health care professionals was commendable. Although, there were trying and exasperating times that left me feeling as though I wasn’t being heard or that my input carried little to no value in the eyes of the health providers. Through these experiences I became passionate about patient and caregiver advocacy.

Now part of the Waterloo Wellington LHIN’s Patient and Family Advisory Committee (PFAC), I am inspired by the LHIN’s desire to incorporate the patient perspective into processes, programming and campaigns. By making the simple and important change of incorporating the patient and caregiver voice into the broader functioning of the organization, I can already see it having an impact.

For example, the amazing Change Day campaign was in-part created by PFAC – learn more about the Change Day campaign here. The PFAC was actively engaged in the creation of the Waterloo Wellington LHIN’s Change Day pledge: to communicate effectively with patients, families and caregivers at all points of the continuum of care so that they feel valued.

Communication is so critical to the patient and family member, it allows them to feel empowered, to make an informed decision about their care or the care of a loved one, and to know that their voice is valued and honored by the care provider.  Clear and respectful communication allows for productive and cohesive working relationships, which ultimately improves the patient experience. Not only do patients and caregivers need to be given the space to speak, but health providers need to have the presence of mind to listen respectfully to what is being said.

Reimaging how communication could function better in a patient/caregiver/health provider relationship may seem like a large or onerous task, it’s the simple changes that can have the largest impact.

Therefore, I challenge every health provider to take a moment to think about how a simple change in communication could empower patients and caregivers so that they feel valued. Something as simple as listening to a caregiver or to allowing patients time to ask additional questions or sharing their concerns can improve care, reduce tension, and positively impacts the patient experience.

Simple changes in communication can lead to trusting, lasting and healthy relationships, which ultimately serves to improve the patient experience. Please consider joining the Waterloo Wellington LHIN Change Day campaign, make a pledge to improve patient care through effective communication, learn more here.

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