how to become a family centred care hospital


Last week, some of my friends from the Stollery Children’s Hospital hosted a lovely evening for me with wine and chocolate.  I left my position there two years ago, but I have been very fortunate to have retained treasured friendships with staff and family members that I met while I was there.  We naturally started reminiscing about how family centred care formally started at the hospital six years ago.

It began modestly, with one leader and one mom.  The leader brought the mom to a senior management meeting, and the other senior leaders climbed on-board.  Four other moms who had experience at the hospital with their children started connecting in coffee shops and in hotel hallways at conferences.  The leader brought in two moms to sit on an interview panel to hire a dedicated Family Centred Care staff member.  There was a Planning Day with the senior executives and five moms.  (Dads became involved later, don’t worry).  A deadline to start a Council was set.  Council recruitment began, and out of many wonderful candidates, both a Council and a Network was born.  A specialized NICU group started up.  The work began slowly, with successful family presentations to staff audiences.  A newsletter was established to keep everybody informed about volunteer opportunities.  Staff who were champions in family centred care were encouraged and recognized.  Family representatives showed up on hospital committees, more interview panels, and capital design projects.   They began reviewing policies and educational materials.

During this time, the sharing of family stories at presentations continued.  The family experience become more understood by staff and physicians through this storytelling.  (I believe that compassion in health care comes from this understanding).  Families partnered with staff to present, and began understanding the staff perspective, too.  Families spoke to students, to influence young minds early.  Families came to management meetings.  A strategy day was held, with fifty participants.  Priorities were identified to help guide the work of the family centred care staff, which was growing thanks to Foundation support, and successful grant applications.  Some priorities were harder to implement:  like peer support, and transition to adulthood.  The staff and family reps did not give up.  The good work from the hospital slowly began to be communicated outside their walls – at national and international conferences, in the media, and in written articles.  Research and evaluation initiatives began.

Last year, family representatives put in over 1,500 volunteer hours to advance family centred care at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.  There are currently 128 family members and 284 staff on the Network.  The culture at the hospital has changed – the family voice is more consistently respected and heard throughout the entire facility.  Families are included in conversations both about their children’s care and at the operational level.  Staff and physicians are celebrated for excellence in family centred practice.  The Stollery Children’s Hospital is now a family centred care hospital. (For more details about the family centred care work done this past year, check out their annual report here).

I was that first mom six years ago who worked with that first leader, whose name is Laurene Black.  We are both passionate and stubborn people.   Laurene was at my party last week.  She’s one of my true mentors; I have learned so much from her. She’s now moved onto making change in the challenging world of children’s mental health services.  I’m moving to Vancouver to be the Family Advisor at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children.

The hospital’s family centred care work so long ago quickly became more than just the two of us – and that’s how it should be.  It continues today with great momentum and flourish, thanks to the unwavering hard work of Heather Mattson McCrady, Christie Oswald, and dozens of staff and family volunteers. Nothing stays the same, but the good work continues on.  As Laurene likes to say:  just keep your head down, folks, and keep going.  

Thank you Laurina, Karen, Marni, Tiffany, Heather, Laurene, Shelley and Karen for my celebration.  I feel very much loved.  I’m in awe of the work you’ve done, and excited to see what the future holds for us all…




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