Island Health has continued its patient engagement work by adapting to the virtual environment. If you’re a PVN member from the island, read these tips from the Island Health Patient Experience Team to know what to expect, communicate your needs, feel prepared and ensure your engagement experience is meaningful.
Meaningful Engagement during COVID-19: Attending Virtual Meetings
Many patient partners are actively engaging with Island Health throughout the pandemic. Thank you! – your time and participation helps Island Health care partners to provide person- and family-centred care – building services around the needs and experiences of the people we serve.
Your Voice is Important
Your voice is important at Island Health meetings and we value your attendance. As a volunteer, it may sometimes be hard to “see” upcoming meetings in your calendar when you are going about your daily life, or if you have other family or work-related responsibilities. Meetings for volunteer engagements can sometimes surprise you at the last minute or you may miss them, feeling regretful and disappointed. Perhaps you may find you don’t have the needed technology, access or an environment that is conducive to virtual meetings.
Keep Good Records
Some patient partners have been asking their health care partners to send them extra emails or phone call reminders for booked meetings. The responsibility to record and remember your upcoming meetings is an important part of the role which you fulfill as a patient partner. This is especially crucial since the workload capacity for health care partners does not provide for the time required to manage the schedules of others and there is no expectation for this to happen.
There are sometimes, however, when health care partners may jump in to provide extra support for you to attend meetings. Such times may include facing personal, health, socio-economic or technological challenges. For example, if you have difficulties organizing or remembering information because of a health condition or disability, limited access to technology to keep track of or successfully attend meetings, or limited privacy for a virtual meeting, you may wish to reach out for extra support.
Tips for Virtual Meetings
To further help with attending meetings and caring for yourself, please read below for a few tips to know what to expect, manage email invitations, communicate your needs and feel prepared:
Plan to Meet Virtually
- To protect the health and safety of all, patient partners are asked to meet virtually, not in person. Public health guidelines maintain that COVID-19 remains a concern and warrants appropriate physical distancing. Until there is a change in policy, we recommend participating virtually (for example by phone, email or videoconference).
- To ensure equitable access during the pandemic, most meeting participants will connect using the same virtual method. This reduces differences in power and access. If you attend a meeting where most participants are meeting in-person while you are attending virtually or by phone, please reach to your main point of contact or firstname.lastname@example.org to request a more equitable meeting environment.
Identify the Best Method for Receiving Meeting Invites
- Some home computers (Apple) are not compatible with Island Health’s Microsoft Outlook calendar meeting invitations. This means when you receive an invitation from a health care partner, you cannot click on the invitation and have it successfully entered into your own calendar. If this is the case, let your health care partner know what method of invitation works best for you. You may prefer invitations by both calendar invitation and email, email alone, or a phone call/message.
- It works well to manually input the information from a calendar invite or email into your own calendar as needed, as well as or instead of relying on your calendar to automatically enter it.
- If you use a cellphone, it may also help to set reminders or alarms to alert you to upcoming meetings.
Expect Clear Instructions in Invitations
- Expect clear and detailed instructions in each meeting invitation. For example, in pre-COVID times, acronyms for buildings or pavilions should be spelled out and full street addresses should be included when needed. For teleconferences, the external phone number should be included (rather than just a 5-digit number for internal callers). If you don’t have all the information required, please let your health care partner contact know so that they can efficiently provide you with the needed information.
Address Barriers to Success
- If you don’t have access to needed technology, lack privacy for a virtual meeting or have difficulties organizing or remembering information because of a health condition or disability, you may need extra support. In these circumstances, reach out to your main point of contact to explain these challenges and plan to collaboratively explore alternate solutions. You are not expected to share personal or private details. For example, please know you can communicate in general terms, “My health condition makes it challenging to keep track of meetings each day,” is a good start to a conversation. Here are some tips for being assertive.
Take a Break from Engagements When Needed
- Human nature may bring any of us to a place where we have taken on too much and cannot meet our previous commitments. If you are finding it difficult to manage your schedule and attend engagements, consider if this might it be a symptom of being too busy or stretched “too thin.” Please know it is okay to step back from volunteer work when needed. Your health and wellness come first. Please let your health care partner and PVN know when this happens.
If you have ongoing concerns about your engagement experience or are not able to attend meetings regularly, please reach out to the Patient Voice’s Network’s Engagement Lead for Vancouver Island, Ashley Clark: AClark@bcpsqc.ca or Island Health’s Experience team: email@example.com for extra support or resources.