“Bringing my best skills to make a change.”
– PVN Member Pamela Jessen
I moved to Vancouver Island, BC from Alberta in 2013 and discovered the Patient Voices Network that October. As a person with disabilities, I was interested in discovering how I could have an impact on health care in BC, so I attended an orientation session to find out more.
The orientation was a half-day workshop. We discussed PVN, what the network did and how patient participation was key to its success. A patient partner, Colleen McGavin (now the Patient Engagement Lead for the BC SUPPORT Unit), who was very active in PVN, talked to us about how becoming involved can personally affect you and how empowering the role of volunteering could be. I was hooked from the start and signed up right away!
Within a couple of weeks, I was delighted to take part in my first engagement where I was able to share information about PVN with people attending a local health fair. Despite my limited knowledge, I was able to enthusiastically share what I knew and what I was learning and as a result, many people signed up to join the network. I left that day feeling so satisfied!
As my involvement grew, so did the number and type of engagements I was involved with. There were phone surveys, committees and educational opportunities. I was invited to take part in a Provincial Dialogue which took place in Vancouver. Accommodations and flight costs were covered for the 2-day event and there were about 200 people attending from all over BC. We discussed strategic planning for the province and what health care could look like for BC’s residents. We took part in planning sessions and as we worked through the details, I was excited to see the level of energy in the room. Everyone was engaged and involved, knowing that our work would truly have an impact. I even had my thoughts printed in the PVN Voices of Change in the Spring of 2014.
Every year, the BC Patient & Safety Council, which administers the PVN, holds a Quality Forum. The Forum is three days of educational seminars relating to health care in BC. There is an awards program that kicks off the conference in which several different categories offer opportunities for groups and individuals to highlight their work in bringing patient-centred care to the forefront. I’ve been lucky to be a judge twice for these awards and was nominated once for an award for my work in an Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Committee.
In the past few years, I’ve been involved with the BC Emergency Medicine Network, on their Clinical Resources Group and the Management Committee as well. I also sit on a Surgical Quality Committee and was recently named co-chair of the Oversight and Advisory Committee for PVN.
Being a part of PVN has given me the opportunity to speak in front of audiences at several of these engagements, sharing my story about living with chronic pain and how my health experiences and interactions have been affected in different ways with different engagements.
With one engagement I was involved with, I spoke to over 200 senior leaders in information management, law, privacy, data analytics, records management, research, compliance, information technology, cybersecurity and other info governance-related disciplines. These leaders were from all of BC’s health organizations and the Ministry of Health and this opportunity allowed us all to get together and discuss the importance of information governance and the ability to have access to health information across the regions.
I am passionate about how health care is delivered in BC. Each engagement I choose to join in PVN is picked to bring my best skills to help make a change, as well as to push me personally and help me grow. My career was as an Executive Level Administrative Assistant and a Certified Event Planner, and when I left that career behind because of health issues in 2009, I didn’t think I’d ever find a way to feel fulfilled again.
Working with PVN is even more satisfying because I’m able to work with others on projects that bring real benefits to everyday people.
I hope to continue to push myself with ever-changing opportunities and I highly recommend people investigate becoming a member themselves. We are looking for all voices – Indigenous, youth, LGBTQ+ and seniors – to offer valuable perspectives to improving health care for everyone. I’ve certainly seen change with the work I’ve been involved in so far, and I’m excited about the future of PVN as we look at creating a new strategic plan.