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August 1, 2017

At our table: Patient advisors make an impact on care

At Hamilton Health Sciences, we recognize that patients and their families can offer unique perspectives and valuable feedback. Through our Patient Advisor program, we partner with patients and their families who help us provide high quality, patient and family-centered care and services.

Donna Brown Bowers was a patient at Juravinski Cancer Centre and a patient advisor at Hamilton Health Sciences.

Q: What compelled you to become a patient advisor?

Both my husband and I were being treated for cancer at Juravinski Cancer Centre at the same time and, while we felt that the medical, surgical, chemotherapy and radiation aspect of our care was done well, we had ideas on how the communication of social/emotional support to patients and families could be improved. I was volunteering in the chemotherapy suite post-treatment and came across an advertisement for patient advisors. My interest was piqued and was followed by the application, interview and acceptance process. I gradually began to see my role as an opportunity for me to encourage the communication aspect of patient care to be more respectful, empathetic and collaborative. And at every opportunity and in every project I try to bring that voice to the process.

Q: What does your role as a patient advisor entail?

I have had so many opportunities to bring the patient voice and experience to various hospital committees. I see my role as one who keenly listens and sometimes respectfully asks those tough and challenging questions. I will also offer opinions and suggestions based on my insights as a patient. I am one voice at the table but it is a unique voice that sometimes makes a complex situation more clear.

Q: What’s been the most rewarding part of being a patient advisor?

I have been involved in some wonderful projects that are making strides in significant improvements in patient care and in particular patient engagement. It is exciting to see the commitment turn into actions that turn into results and to know that I had a part in making it happen!

As a patient advisor I have felt valued, respected and encouraged in my  participation. It has been an empowering and life-changing experience for me. I have learned so much about the medical system, the great challenges and the great efforts that are going on to improve the patient experience.

Q: What would you say to others considering becoming a volunteer or patient advisor?

Decide what skills and interests you have and want to use and then become involved! It is often not rocket science stuff that is going on and bringing your voice and experience to the project can make a difference.Why would you not want to become involved in making a difference for yourself and others in healthcare and in your community!