Healthcare, Resources

National Forum on Patient Experience Conference- Day 1

The conference opened with Dr. Vaughan Glover, CEO, Canadian Association for People-Centered Health (CAPCH) welcoming everyone and he was also the moderator for the two-day conference. He generously gave all three hundred attendees a copy of his book, Journey to Wellness: Designing a People-Centered Health System for Canadians.

The opening address was with Leslee Thompson, CEO and President of the Kingston General Hospital and what a speaker! She was engaging, informative and very clearly and easily discussed the changes implemented by the hospital and the necessity to do so. The changes had to be on all levels from the top to the bottom.

Patient Centered-Care, is just that, care and solutions focused on the patient, their needs, their wants and their involvement at all levels. Former patients sit on various committees and offer suggestions and solutions.

The next event of the morning was a panel discussion titled: Build a Resilient Experience Advisor Program that Drives Change. Jennifer Rees, Executive Director, Patient Experience, Alberta Health Services; Bonnie Nicholas, Lead, Patient & Family Centered Care, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre; and Caryl Harper, Director, Patients as Partners of Primary Health Care, Vancouver Island Health Authority. An engaging and thought-provoking panel where each speaker gave great examples of the shift in focus for their organizations and agencies that involves patients.

The next presenters were Lena Cuthbertson, Provincial Director, Patient-Centered Performance Measurement and Improvement, British Columbia Ministry of Health and Rick Swatzky, PhD, RN, Canada Research Chair in Patient-Reported Outcomes; Associate Professor, Trinity Western University; Research Scientist, Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, Providence Health Care. Their topic was Measure the Patient’s Experience: Demonstrate Value and Generate Insights. They are analyzing data and creating surveys to be used by providers to assist with answering the question of what changes are needed. Research and analyzing of date are needed to transition to the next level.

The morning continued with a presentation by Kimberly Morrissea, Manager, Cultural Proficiency & Diversity, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority on the topic of Cultural Proficiency, Improving the Quality of Care for Aboriginal Peoples.  She discussed the challenges faced by various health providers in supporting a rich and diverse area of individuals who are from various cultures and speak many languages.  Providers need to understand that aboriginals come from different cultures and hold various values, religious beliefs and morals that are different from the mainstream society. Health providers and healthcare professionals need to be respectful of this, along with learning to collaborate by working together with leaders of the different aboriginal sects/divisions, show a willingness to learn the many languages spoken, along with learning the spiritual beliefs and cultural traditions.

The last presentation of the morning was by Jolinda Lambert, CEO of Innovatient and she discussed, How to Engage Patients and Families Post-Discharge to Improve Outcomes. Providers from the public and the private sectors need to collaborate to ensure a patient leaves the hospital, rehabilitation facility or similar centre with a discharge plan in place that will best assist the client and family. Without this collaboration, a patient could be discharged from the public sector into the community sector with no services in place to assist the patient/client in their home environment. I.e., 86 year old senior is discharged from the hospital in a hospital gown, sent home in a taxi without any community organizations or family being notified. Client returns to home environment with no services in place, but needing home care and home visits by a local government/public clinic nurse. This should not happen.

After a much needed lunch break, the afternoon session began. Kira Leeb, Director, Health System Performance Canadian Institute for Health Information presented a Case Study titled: Canadian Hospital Reporting Project.

The next presenter, David Mosher, Director of RelayHealth, McKesson CANADA spoke on the topic of Fostering a Culture of Communication between Physicians and Patients. His examples focused on a system that is a pilot project in the province of Nova Scotia where technology is being implemented, a portal of sorts where patients can log in and share information with their physician and other health care providers. Appointments can be scheduled online, test results, lab work and exam information is at the fingertips of the patients and the healthcare system.

The second to last presentation of the afternoon was a Patient Engagement Panel, Patients as Partners: Improve Outcomes through Patient and Family Engagement by Dawn Sidenberg, Lead, Patient Centered Care Project, Humber River Regional Hospital;  Jill Carmichael Adolphe, Partner, Care 2 Collaborate;  Elke Ruthig, Manager, Patient Education, Toronto General Hospital;  Patient Advocate, Zal Press, Executive Director & Patient, Patient Commando Productions with Sydney Graham, Co-Founder and Partner, Care 2 Collaborate.

A wonderful and informative discussion panel re: what each organization/institution is doing re: implementing Patient-Centered Care and how the patients are part of every decision-making experience from participating on committees and projects to being a part of the hiring committee for professional staff.

The afternoon ended with a presentation by Chris Cashwell, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing & Strategy, Lincor Solutions. Again, a good presentation that grabbed the attention of all present due to his engaging, energetic and passionate talk about the advances that are being made in technology. Imagine being a patient in a hospital and having an interactive board in your room where you control the lights, heat, summon a nurse or request a meeting with one of your various physicians along with ordering TV, movies and being connected to the internet. Nothing like a speaker who is able to present for 45 minutes and not glance at notes or cue cards; a speaker that talks and shares from the heart and with passion.

It was a long day that began at 8:15 and ended at 5:15 and was followed by a cocktail and networking hour. Much information was shared and I looked at all of it as a learning opportunity. I was one of the few front-line workers in attendance and as I work in community, my take on all the information presented was how it could be easily transitioned from institution and healthcare to community and education systems.

Now maybe it is just me, but as a professional with a MSW degree, a lot of this is common sense. This is how social workers engage clients. We are a team; the professional and the client. Change and movement must be made in collaboration and as a team.

Stay tuned for Day 2 of the conference!

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

Healthcare, News

The Benefits to Attending Conferences

I was fortunate enough to be ‘in the right place at the right time’ as the expression goes. Thanks to my moderating a group on LinkedIn in an area that interests me both professionally and personally, I just attended The National Forum on Patient Experience in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The forum began on a high note when I was able to meet the other moderator, Lewis Hooper and the group manager, Paul Gallant of the LinkedIn group Canada Health and Healthcare Consultants in person the night before the conference began. One is from the Toronto area and the other from Vancouver. As I am from Montreal, 3 major hubs in Canada were covered geographically!

Besides the importance of professionals updating their ‘toolbox’ by taking workshops, courses, classes, certification programs or designations, it is equally important to attend conferences when one is able to.

Health and healthcare affects each and every one of us and for some, the effect is both personal and professional. I work with older adults and so my interest in healthcare. As I am a dual citizen of the United States and Canada I have seen, been part of and realize the need for change and restructuring in order for healthcare to continue to be sustainable.

I have been a patient in both the U.S. system and the Canadian healthcare system. I much prefer the Canadian healthcare system and truly believe a major overhaul is needed. With the ‘greying’ of the population due to the number of baby boomers entering the 65+demographic daily, the system is not sustainable as is.

Baby boomers want and will demand more and the system will have to respond. Baby boomers are typically highly educated, do research, know what they do and do not want in the future and the current system of senior residences, Long Term Care/nursing homes are not what they want! The ‘aging in place’ phenomenon has begun. ‘Senior’ communities with services are wanted along with the renovation of ones current home. Some are choosing to downsize into a smaller living environment on one level should mobility become an issue in the future and others are continuing to work part-time while enjoying semi-retirement. These active and engaging ‘seniors’ or older adults are up-to-date on the current trends, are social, technologically savvy, educated, involved in the community as in active volunteers and believe and have lived advocacy. Think Civil Rights, Women’s Lib, protesting the Vietnam War, Gay and Lesbian Rights, humanitarian initiatives and modern-day wars.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Adding Skills to the MSW

Now that summer is over and fall almost upon us, it is the time of year I focus on reflection. I find myself looking to add to my ‘toolbox’ even though I have my MSW degree. Every professional should add to their skill set, improve or expand their knowledge base and continue to learn.

I find myself researching online designations, certificate programs and online courses that interest me and can be taken independently that will enhance my professionalism. I have found a few that grabbed my attention and now I have to narrow down the choice. I am debating between 2 actually, one of which is a designation and one a certificate program. The price for each is reasonable and can be paid in installments and I have 6 months for one and 18 months for the other to complete the coursework, exams and both are online programs. One through a reputable company and the other through a university.

The question to ask is which will better enhance my knowledge and skill set along with providing me with information that I do not already have or have in limited amounts? The designation is related to my current practice of working with seniors/older adults and would certainly enhance my knowledge while the other can be applied to any demographic, but is easily applied to working with the 65+ demographic. The elective course I am required to take could focus on many different areas, although one on grief is the direction I would go.

My interests are aging, advocacy, health care, education, end-of-life issues and grief. Both the designation and the certificate fit into my interests, but I cannot do both at this time. Both can be taken at any point in time and are available online. Not an easy decision. I will continue to reflect, seek guidance and then make a choice.

I hope that other professionals will do the same and see the benefits to adding to their “toolbox.”

Victoria Brewster, MSW


Quotes on the Topic of Death Worth Reading

“Death is a subject that is evaded, ignored and denied by our youth-worshipping society. Death is inevitable-we will all die-the question is when?”

-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“Live each day as if it is the only one you have. Find a sense of peace and strength to deal with life’s disappointments and pain while striving to discover vehicles to make more accessible, increase, and sustain joys and delights of life.”

-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“Ask yourself, how much time and energy have you put into examining your own feelings, beliefs, hopes, and fears about the end of your life? Whatever the things are that would make your life more personally meaningful before you die-do them now.”

-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Education, Youth

Amazing Teacher: Amazing Students

Two amazing books that are a must read both for parents and teachers, and really anyone who works with children are Rafe Esquith’s, Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire and Lighting Their Fires. This is the teacher you want for your kids. This is the teacher you want mentoring/teaching the youth of the future. This is the teacher you want to become a school principal. This is the teacher you want to see in a university as a professor mentoring/teaching in education.

Esquith’s focus is providing a ‘haven’ for his students in grade 5. He teaches at Hobart Elementary in a rough section of Los Angeles in a school that runs year round. It has a fence around it to protect the youth within and keep the rough elements out. Most students are immigrants, English is their second language and they are in the lower socio-economic bracket.

He believes in teaching by example and has learned from his mistakes, readily depicting this in both books. This is a teacher that opens his classroom doors an hour before school normally starts, holds after school sessions and offers voluntary weekend sessions for his current and former students. He teaches all the basics and then goes beyond to include music, theatre, organizational and time management, and life skills of budgeting. Outings in the community occur along with former students coming to mentor his current ones. Yearly trips occur to historical sites, museums, baseball games and he accompanies some students to canvas future colleges. Students have to work hard in the classroom to go on these trips; they are not simply handed out. Many hours are spent in preparation.

Imagine if you had a teacher like this in school. Can you see yourself wanting to stay after school to learn more, to attend a weekend session voluntarily? I can.

This teacher in a sense is also a social worker without the title. There is an emphasis on use of self, compassion, empathy, wanting to make a difference, to rise to the challenge of teaching, but in a way that works for each student, as no two are the same. He instills a joy of reading, playing the guitar, daily physical exercise; quality over quantity. He does not like standardized tests or curriculum that promotes teaching every student the same way.

One of my favorite quote’s from Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire, “Our goal is to help each student become as special as she/he can be as an individual-not to be more special than the kid sitting next to him/her.”

He asks his students why and why not? He believes in character, honesty, morality and generosity of spirit, along with teamwork, collaboration, listening skills and compromise-all necessary and needed life skills/characteristics.

Those that have children in school will learn something from reading both of these books. It will make one question the school their kid(s) currently attend. Parents may become more involved and question the curriculum currently in place. Education is harder today-school budgets are reduced each year and schools make do with less. Many parents pay for the extra’s like music, art, lunch monitors; purchase items for the classroom and assist with fundraising activities along with volunteering in order for their child(ren) to have library time, hot lunches brought in, to go on outings in the community and have extra help in the classroom environment. For those that can volunteer, it is a great way to know what really goes on in the classroom and in the school environment. Trips, extra supplies, books, science equipment, paper products, markers and more cost money and for some families it can be expensive.

Our educational institutions need an overhaul and more money needs to be earmarked for public schools. Schools are where many youth spend between 6-8 hours a day. Let the time be well spent, where at the end of the day they come out having learned something new.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

*First published at:

Humanity, News

Charter of Quebec Values for Who?

The more I read on the issue of the Charter of Quebec Values, I wonder whose values are these? Not mine. I agree with separation of ‘church and state,’ but this is so much more than that. ‘It was originally billed as a “Charter of Secularism,” but the government changed the label. In its revised form, the PQ said the charter will focus on Quebec values such as equality of men and women before the law regardless origin, religion, or mother tongue.’  Even further, the PQ government, the province, wants to protect state secularism by prohibiting public-sector workers from wearing religious symbols in workplaces such as schools, hospitals and daycares.

How can an individual wearing a cross or star of david around their neck be seen as a threat to the Quebec public? How does a teacher wearing a kippah, turban or scarf detract the students from learning? Why is it seen by the minority Quebec government in power, the PQ, that in order for its provincial residents to be a part of Quebec society, we must all be the same and not show outward signs of religion or culture?

I’ve written before on issues regarding the PQ’s suggested legislation, Bill 14 which is a whole separate topic, but the Charter of Quebec Values goes against the very purpose of a free, just, equal, and fair society.

The recent ban on turbans on the soccer pitch — which was lifted by the Quebec Soccer Federation after external pressure — offers a glimpse.’ The ban triggered a political uproar and made headlines around the world as it should have. How does a turban interfere with the game of soccer? ‘Premier Pauline Marois defended the soccer federation and fired back at its detractors whom she accused of Quebec-bashing.’  Really? Does she want to be known for positive improvements or only negative legislation?

The Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has led the opposition among federal parties up to this point, going as far as raising an analogy to segregation in the United States in the 1960s. Mr. Trudeau attacked those who ‘believe that we have to choose between our religion and our Quebec identity, stating the charter would force some people to make irresponsible and inconceivable choices.’  Think back in history for similar discriminatory practices like, slavery, lack of Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, Women’s Lib, where has this led our society? Think of all the wars, pogroms and genocides that have occurred in the worlds history and then see that they all came from a place of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the different. Different is not a bad thing; different is what makes us unique and appreciate the other.

The PQ has defended its plan in the face of an outcry in English Canada, where some analysts and columnists have raised fears of racism, xenophobia and even fascism. The PQ has also used Mr. Trudeau’s attacks against the charter to bolster its case in Quebec, saying it will be up to Quebeckers to choose between two different visions of society.

Last I knew, Quebec was part of Canada. A free, just and open country which values fairness, justice, acceptance re: different religions and cultures. Has something changed that I have not read or heard about? Quebec seems to struggle with being part of an amazing country which offers so much to its citizens. The country itself is bilingual and yet this is something else that Quebec wants to change forcing its residents  to learn, speak and interact on a daily basis in the French language. Personally, I think the more languages one knows the better, but force is not the way to do it. Choice, options, and suggestions tend to work better.

People are speaking up, groups are speaking up and this is one of the great things about social media-is it is right out there for all to see. I hope more Quebec residents speak up and share their thoughts whether positive or negative on this subject-dialogue is certainly needed along with education of the positives and negatives of such legislation, along with perhaps a trip down memory lane where rules and regulations similar to this have been enforced before.

An organization of Quebec teachers is calling the Parti Quebecois’ so-called “Quebec Values” charter extremist, warning it could hinder some teachers’ right to work if they aren’t permitted to wear such religious garb as hijabs, kippas, turbans or crosses.

Regroupement provincial des comités des usagers (RPCU), has a number of concerns about the Charter of Quebec Values proposed by the government of Quebec. The RPCU feels that the secular nature of the State should be evident through the neutrality of its actions, not through a prohibition on the wearing of religious symbols either by the individuals who provide services or by those who receive them. Does the wearing of religious symbols by government employees really prevent the neutrality of the State?

The RPCU is also concerned that religious practices will be banned from residential and long-term care centres (CHSLD). A majority of the elderly in-patients are practicing Catholics, and Sunday mass is anxiously awaited. The same is true for in-patients of other faiths, Jews or Muslims, for example.

What right do I have to bring up these issues? I live in Quebec and I am part of the minority as an Anglophone (English speaking). I do not believe force and discriminatory legislation is needed or in the best interest of the residents of Quebec. Acceptance, compassion, empathy and building bridges seems to me a better direction to go.

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

*First posted at:

Humanity, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

A Quote Worth Sharing

“The only way my life makes sense is if, regardless of culture, race, religion, tribe; there is this commonality, these essential human truths and passions and hopes and moral precepts that are universal. And that we can reach out beyond our differences. If that is not the case, then it is pretty hard for me to make sense of my life. So that is at the core of who I am.” – Barack Obama