PVN 10th Anniversary Story: Derek Koch on Connecting Early and Often

In our PVN 10th Anniversary blog, our health care partner Derek Koch, Spiritual Health Practitioner and Patient- and Family-Centred Care Lead at Kelowna General Hospital talks about how his team is making the patient experience a priority.

1. Can you tell us why you wanted patient partner(s) involved?

The bottom line is because we’re caring for patients. People who know best are those who are receiving the care so it makes logical sense that we would consult with them about their experiences at our hospital. Those conversations take place in various settings – over the phone about specific initiatives and through patient partner involvement on specific teams. These teams may meet for a certain time period to focus on specific initiatives or they might meet regularly and continually, working on ongoing projects and initiatives. It is important to have the patient voice in all these meetings.

2. What is the overall purpose and goal of your work and the role of the patient partner(s)?

I have two different roles: Spiritual Health and Cultural Transformation. In my Cultural Transformation role, my work centres on helping the hospital move towards making patients and families the center of care and making the hospital a place where people feel comfortable from the moment they enter the building until they leave. The role of patient partners is to consult with professional staff on how potential initiatives meet or don’t meet the needs of patients. Sometimes we have great ideas, but because we’re not the patients, we consult with them to find out if the initiatives are truly meaningful. We also invite patients to become part of specific committees to help shape and craft initiatives. I am only one of many other colleagues who work with the Patient Voices Network.

3. Can you share how the patient partners’ input has contributed to the outcomes of your work?

“What Matters to You?” – When this campaign came out on June 6, 2017, we decided to roll it out on one unit of the hospital. We got the t-shirts, bookmarks, colouring sheets – it was a really great day! We oriented staff the day before and they participated quite well. The highlight was the colouring sheets they gave to patients that ended up on the staff bulletin board – patients drew and wrote what they wanted to see changed. One patient’s colouring sheet that clearly laid out the patient’s specific needs, helped the unit adjust the care plan for that patient. The campaign was helpful in reminding our team to ask what matters to our patients.

UBC Okanagan Nursing Students – In summer and fall 2019, four students travelled throughout the whole hospital and asked five questions based on the “What Matters to You?” campaign. They took answers from patients about how they were feeling, what was going well and what could be changed. Patients’ responses were then brought to leadership and it allowed them to complement and affirm in some areas what they were doing well in and create change in other areas. What the students discovered became priorities for staff moving forward.

One area that has been addressed since this project was the needs of hard-of-hearing and visually impaired patients – what could we do for them? What are their needs?

Two Patient Partners Got Involved – Our Patient- & Family- Centred Care (PFCC) Core Working Group chatted with these patients in person and on the phone about their experiences. From those conversations, we developed two important changes: (1) we laminated posters that help staff identify deaf or hard of hearing and sight limited patients and provided 10 tips about caring for those patients, and (2) we created stickers for the spines of medical charts so that when a porter moves patients from one area to another, the patients’ needs are easily identified. These ideas came together through collaboration with staff and PVN patient partners. We also followed up with the patient partners to close the loop and make sure they knew how their input had impacted patient care.

4. Did your direction and outcomes change as a result of this input? How?

I don’t think we’ve gone down a path or explored an idea so far where patient partners have joined and told us the idea was meaningless and we had to backtrack. What has happened is that because we’ve included patient partners early in the process, they have helped shape the initiatives and helped emphasize key points.

We have a PFCC Working Group, which is a multidisciplinary group that meets monthly and identifies gaps in PFCC and creates initiatives that promote PFCC in the hospital. Our patient partner has been such a key part of the group and has helped with so many initiatives. For example, our patient partner has helped bring a lot of focus to mental health because they have a lot of experience in that realm of care and emphasized the need to give this area a lot of attention, which helped us realize that this was a serious issue.

5. Do you have any advice for other health care teams who are interested in involving patient partners in their work?

Sometimes people don’t realize this option is available to them, but it is important for everyone to consider involving patient partners at the start of their projects. When doing this, I encourage health care partners to reach out and be specific about what they require of the patient partners and promote the patient partner as being an equal member of the team in whatever setting they’re in.

It’s also important to educate staff about the value of the patient partners by promoting them in the meeting and talking about how valuable they are and how important their perspective is.

Finally, make sure that if you have a patient partner on your team, you are also asking them about how they’re feeling and how things are going in their experience as a patient partner – it’s one thing to just be on a team and its another level of care and partnership to ask about how things are going – some key conversations can come out of that (i.e. this initiative might not be right, I might not feel like I’m being heard).

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