Jenny Flagler George
Manager Patient Experience
An important part of my job is centred on leading the work we do with our Patient and Family Advisory Committee. We work closely with this committee and our other Patient and Family Advisors on a number of important initiatives. They act as the voices for our patients and caregivers. Putting patients first means listening to what they have to say and not just assuming that we know what’s best for the patient or their family members.
You can’t make plans for patients without knowing what they need or want. Even though I may be a patient or a caregiver myself, I can’t assume what patients need. I have a different perspective because I work in health care. I may not understand what gaps exist for patients in different circumstances. I can’t possibly know what it’s like to care for a child with a chronic health condition. Or my experience with an ageing parent may be different than someone else’s experience. We’re lucky to have patients who are willing to bring their new and fresh perspectives to the challenges we want to tackle.
It’s resulted in a lot of “ah-ha” moments for us. They tell us what it’s like to transition from hospital to home or what it’s like to get older and still caring for an adult child with a severe mental health condition. Every person I’ve met who is willing to share their story is helping to shape the system.
It also gives us valuable insight to help us understand what’s important to patients versus what we think is important. For example, we spend a lot of time talking about safety for elderly residents and educating them about falls and physical safety. When we ask our patients what safety looks like for them, they don’t think about falling – that’s not their main concern. Safety for them is knowing who is coming into their homes to provide care. Safety to them is about trust.
I really enjoy when I can connect a patient or family member with a staff member who is working on a specific area of planning. When that staff member hears the patient’s perspective or unique experience and tells me, “I never thought of it that way,” I know we are getting the information we need to make the right decisions.
I have a PhD in sociology, and I focused my research on the experiences of immigrants caring for family members. Hearing about their experiences highlighted the need to have health care that works for everyone, and especially those who are most vulnerable. When we have a variety of voices at the table where we’re planning for the future of health care, we’re more likely to build a system that can work for everyone.
Even when I hear negative feedback about the system, I don’t see it as a reason to feel pessimistic. The members of our Patient and Family Advisory Committee may have had negative experiences in their own care, but they want to make a difference. They’re not there because we can fix their individual experience, but they know they can make changes to the system, and that’s so important.
I’m very proud of the work we’re doing and the impact it’s having. It’s an amazing feeling to be part of a process that’s making a difference.