Manager of Patient Relations
My role at the LHIN is focused on supporting patients and families who are relying on our healthcare system. Part of that role involves getting feedback about the services patients receive or are trying to access. We genuinely want to hear people’s feedback. We want them to know that there is a place for them to come and share their experiences, suggestions, and questions and that it will be shared with the appropriate people within our healthcare system.
My background is in clinical social work. I’ve been a Social Worker for the past 20 years. I was drawn to the profession because I wanted to be in a role where I had an opportunity to truly understand another person’s perspective and advocate for them when they didn’t feel their voice was being heard.
Patient Relations is a rewarding role because it focuses on understanding and learning from different perspectives. Many social work skills are used in areas of communication, conflict management, advocacy, and mediation. Most times with patient relations, it isn’t always an obvious “this went wrong, and we need to fix it” situation. There may be a lot of emotion involved that seems misplaced, but there’s always a reason for it.
A long time ago, one of my professors taught me that anger on the tongue means fear in the heart. That advice always resonated with me, but it wasn’t until I experienced it first hand that I really understood what he meant. I was working in a hospital, and there was a patient who was becoming resistant and angry whenever he was supposed to have a test done. He couldn’t explain his behaviour. After talking to him and asking questions, together, we learned that his father had died within six weeks of being diagnosed with cancer. At a sub-conscious level, this patient was petrified of what his own tests would reveal.
That’s what I love about patient relations. When it’s not a clear situation, it’s my job to dig deeper and find out what’s underlying the emotions or behaviour. If we can figure that out, we can usually resolve the concerns and move to a positive outcome.
I moved from the hospital setting to the LHIN because I wanted to work at the system level. I wanted to get an idea of how the bigger system works and what can be done to make it easier and more satisfactory for patients. The patient’s journey is impacted by the entire healthcare system – not just a hospital stay or a series of home care visits. Here we’re planning for the future, and we need to learn from the real experiences of people living in our community.
I also find it rewarding to support staff and act as a resource for them when they are doing all they can to help patients through a difficult situation. If a patient and their family are upset, chances are, the staff member is upset too. We’re all part of the same team, working toward the same goal.
I want to be that person who stops whatever I’m doing to hear a patient or their loved one share their story and try to figure out if there’s something more I can do to help them. All of us have been in that position where we were in crisis, felt overwhelmed, and weren’t sure where to go. It leaves you feeling helpless at a time when you are already feeling afraid. It makes a world of difference to have someone truly listen, validate what you’re saying and show they understand. Suddenly you don’t feel so alone. To hear “we’re in this together” is one thing; to feel it is another. I want to be that person to our patients.