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patient advisor, Martha Winhall, Dr. John You, and Marilyn Swinton sit on a bench talking in a brightly lit atrium
July 30, 2018

Speaking from experience

The perspective of a patient advisor

The best health care is built by people who’ve been there. People like Martha Winhall. Martha has been a patient advisor at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) for three years. She volunteered because she wanted to share what she learned caring for her father at the end of his life, to help improve the hospital experience for future patients and families.

Martha advises on end-of-life initiatives at HHS. Most recently, she’s been contributing to a project on improving end-of-life communication. The team she’s working with has created a toolkit to guide and encourage conversations about mortality between older adults, their families, and their healthcare teams.

The right tools to guide conversation

“Our goal is to identify valuable tools that will reduce unwanted treatments and ensure that patient voices are heard,” says Dr. John You, an internist at HHS. “Guidance from patient advisors is crucial to this work.”

Involving patient advisors like Martha ensures that their viewpoint is front-and-centre. They bring experience from far beyond the walls of our hospitals to shape what happens within them.

“I help shift the conversation back to the patient perspective,” says Martha.

Expanding across HHS and beyond

The toolkit is being piloted at Hamilton General Hospital and in several other healthcare settings across Canada. Dr. You and his team hope to expand the communication system across HHS as a routine part of patient care.

Martha has devoted many hours of her already busy life to this project. Knowing that future patients will benefit from her shared experience makes it all worthwhile.

“I have found it to be extraordinarily rewarding,” she says.

In the past four years, the number of hours contributed by volunteer patient advisors at HHS has increased ten fold.

This dedicated and growing group is involved in projects ranging from our Accreditation Steering Committee to the expansion of our stem cell program.

Learn how to become a volunteer patient and family advisor.