Christine Wallsworth’s late husband had dementia and, as his cognitive abilities deteriorated, she often saw his voice ignored and that she needed to advocate on his behalf. After a support group volunteer told her how patients, families and caregivers can advocate for the care they receive and influence policies, she joined several patient engagement opportunities through the Patient Voices Network and Vancouver Coastal Health’s Community Engagement Advisory Network. She quickly discovered her passion for patient engagement and improving the health care system.
Christine has advanced the patient voice ever since. As a member of Providence Health Care’s Care Experience Advisory Committee for nine years, she has contributed to a number of important initiatives, including the organization’s Family Presence Policy, which allows for family members, as defined by the patient, to visit at any time. And as an advisory committee member for its Research Challenge, which is a competition that offers mentorship to develop a research proposal, her unwavering commitment to championing patient voices led to the requirement that teams include at least one Patient Family Partner. These patient and family partners provide insight to research teams on patient impacts and are offered training and mentoring through the Patient Experience Research Collaboration, an initiative co-founded by Christine which also advises researchers on how to include patient and family partners in their projects.
Christine has plenty of experience with hospital discharges from caring for her husband which she shares through her involvement with the Patient Oriented Discharge Summary (PODS) implementation team at St. Paul’s Hospital. PODS aims to improve patients’ confidence about discharge and teach them how to manage their health at home. A few weeks after the PODS initiative was launched, it became clear that medical staff needed inspiration to use the new resources. Christine visited the hospital and spoke to two groups of staff nurses to share her personal experiences with hospital discharges and how PODS could make a concrete impact for patients.
“Using PODS is a no-brainer for me, as it’s a systematic way for patients/caregivers and staff to ensure that the discharge is more successful,” said Christine in the Patient Voices Network’s 2019/20 Annual Report. “Being involved in this project, the PODS team turned my late husband’s poor experiences into a positive as our ideas were incorporated into the plan.”
Christine has also co-authored six peer-reviewed articles published in notable health care journals, with another currently under review. She hopes that two of them in particular, titled “What constitutes meaningful engagement for patients and families as partners on research teams?” and “Involving patients and families in a social robot study,” receive a wide readership for their views on how to include patient and family partners in research.
Drawing on personal health care experiences, Christine’s story has inspired change in research and patient care. Audiences sit up and pay attention when she speaks, so it’s no wonder that her impact spans many groups and organizations. She continues to authentically advocate for patients at every turn.