Patient/family advisors use personal experience to inform care

Children’s Hospital focus on patients, families sparks Medical Center cultural change

In the fall of 2009, Inpatient Pediatrics Nurse Manager Lisa Emerson attended a conference hosted by the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care. Armed with an action plan and a heart full of inspiration, Emerson connected with families of pediatric patients directly upon her return.

Soon after, this group became the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital Patient/Family Advisory Council. Emerson’s tenacity, commitment and drive to improve the safety, quality and satisfaction of the health care provided on the Inpatient Pediatric Unit quickly gained traction. In 2014, a group of parents, clinical staff and administrative leaders also attended the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care’s intensive seminar.

At UVM Medical Center, Patient- and Family-Centered Care has grown from being a pediatric-based initiative to an organization-wide culture change. Our 132 patient/family advisors are actively engaged across the organization on six Patient/Family Advisory Councils and 143 quality-improvement projects, committees and workgroups.

Sandy Huber, co-chair of the Type 1 Diabetes Patient/Family Advisory Council and parent of a child who is cared for at our Children’s Specialty Center, says this about the impact of our Patient- and Family-Centered Care Program:  “… I have witnessed the positive outcomes from empowering families to join in their child’s health care journey. We support family members as caregivers and believe that the family is the child’s primary source of strength and support. I find the collaboration between the health care professionals and the patients’ families inspiring. Personally, this approach has helped our family in guiding decisions for our son’s evolving health care needs.”

The “butterfly effect” theory proposes that a small change at one place in a complex system can have a substantial impact on the entire organization. Emerson’s exploration of, and our leadership’s unwavering dedication to, patient- and family-centered care has launched a “butterfly effect” throughout this health care system. The positive results, for our patients, families and employees, continue to spread.