In April 2015, nine district health authorities across Nova Scotia came together to become the Nova Scotia Health Authority. At that time, formal engagement with patients, families, and caregivers was happening independently across the province, and was not well-coordinated or standardized. In particular, there was ample opportunity for better focus, resources, monitoring, and support. Multiple departments across NSHA then came together to structure how NSHA engages with patients, their families and caregivers, including Public Engagement, Quality Improvement, Safety & Patient Relations, and Volunteer Services. In consultation with patients and families, including NSHA’s Patient, Family & Public Advisory Council, significant work was done to create a focused system for recruiting and retaining Patient/Family Advisors (PFAs), supporting staff, and nurturing meaningful engagement. This system includes tools and resources for PFAs including an online/mail-in application process, standardized onboarding procedure, online private resource page, an in-person PFA conference, and more. Staff are also supported by this system with things like engagement guides, online workshops, standardized templates for posting and interviewing, and in-person support sessions. Annual evaluation of teams and PFAs helps assess the meaningfulness of the engagement experience, resulting in a focused, action-oriented plan to further enhance the staff capacity to engage PFAs, and additional supports for PFAs themselves. An online PFA/team tracking tool also helps NSHA maintain awareness of the current state of engagement. So far, these collective efforts have seen the number of filled PFA opportunities grow from 108 to 223 in only 3 years.
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