Volunteers make a difference at the Red Deer Regional Hospital

Volunteers make a difference at the Red Deer Regional Hospital

Patient experience advisors help out on the frontlines

A group of volunteers is improving the patient experience at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Patient experience advisors have face-to-face conversations with patients and families about their experiences, care and concerns, reducing any fears or anxieties they may have. The advisors also take time to develop relationships with long or short stay patients to help them feel calm and comfortable during their stay in hospital. The advisors can answer questions, walk patients through hospital procedures, or just stop by to say, “Good morning” and share a smile.

“This partnership can have a significant impact on patient experience outcomes,” said Karen Tingley, manager of Clinical Quality Improvement in the Central Zone of Alberta Health Services. “As part of the unit collaborative care team, our patient experience advisors ask questions outside of the clinical care realm — catching critical needs, concerns or compliments — and passing them on to the appropriate interdisciplinary care team member.”

Many patients have remarked the patient experience advisors improve their care experience.

“Being involved in my own care plan meant a lot to me,” said former patient Cindy Oxman. “I felt very comfortable and relaxed speaking with the patient experience advisor. It was hard to believe she wasn’t a paid employee as she was so knowledgeable and objective. Having the opportunity to provide honest and confidential feedback was exceptionally valuable.”

Patient experience advisors are recruited from an existing pool of volunteers at the hospital. Initially, the role was piloted on a single unit at the hospital November 2016, with a second pilot in early 2017. The program is now being rolled out to more units.

“This is such an exciting partnership and great way to engage previous patients or family members as volunteers,” said Lynn Gray, manager, Volunteer Resources. “The model we’ve developed is sustainable and can easily be spread throughout Central Zone and the province.”

Its impact on the patient experience has already garnered recognition in the healthcare community; earning a 2017 Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) Patient Experience Award.

“Enhancing patient and family experiences is a key priority for Alberta Health Services,” said Julie Schellenberg, director, Integrated Quality Management, Central Zone. “I am extremely proud of the teams that came together around this important work and the HQCA’s recognition validates the impact and strides we have made through this unique collaboration.”

– Fawcett