The Patient/Family Advisory Council (PFAC) was formed in 2017, with the purpose of partnering with the local community and serving as a platform for patients and families to address potential disparities and barriers. It is the goal of the Prowers Medical Center PFAC to ensure that the community has the opportunity to share their perspectives and experiences while providing input on issues that impact their health and care.
Kim Burgess, current chair of the nine-person council, states, “My hope for the council is to get our patients, family members, and community more involved in their healthcare.”
In the time since the council was formed, the group has proven to be an active force in improving the experience at Prowers Medical Center for patients and their families. The council takes feedback from providers and patients, and it also collects recommendations from suggestion box cards that have been filled out by family members and friends of patients.
PFAC members have been instrumental in offering comfort to patients throughout the hospital, with a specific focus on patients who are receiving chemotherapy treatments. After receiving feedback that chemotherapy patients are often nervous or uncomfortable when receiving treatment, members of the PFAC began giving personalized gift bags and a care blanket to patients who were entering their first treatment. As a way of celebrating a final chemotherapy treatment, patients are given a special token and are able to ring a bell on their way out of the infusion therapy services room.
Two other programs recently implemented by PFAC are the Comfort Care Cart and Prowers Medical Center’s participation in the No One Dies Alone (NODA) program, which was first introduced in Eugene, Oregon.
Comfort Care Cart
The Comfort Care Cart is available to family members and visitors of patients who may be receiving care for an extended period of time. The cart is stocked with items including playing cards, coloring books, inspirational cards, puzzles, books donated by the library, and personal items like hand lotion, nail files and nail polish.
“We fill the cart with things that will make people feel more comfortable, or that will keep them busy,” says Lois Schroeder, Gift Shoppe Manager. “It’s a way to let them know that we care and are there for them.”
The cart is made available to visitors through the Gift Shoppe. If a family member or child are in need of something or are restless, items from the cart can be made available to them.
No One Dies Alone
The No One Dies Alone program focuses on providing support to patients who do not have family or friends to be with them in the last hours of their lives. At Prowers Medical Center, the recommendation for a vigil is made by the nurse in charge. A pair of NODA volunteers will sit with the patient. They are equipped with a tablet for playing music, reading or listening to scripture, or simply communicating with others.
“We felt like there was a need to have someone available to patients in the last days of their lives,” says Lois, “to show care and support in their time of need.”
After learning about the program started in Eugene, Oregon, Lois and Kim took on the task of bringing the program to Prowers Medical Center. Lois introduced and taught the first training sessions for the program. The NODA program at Prowers Medical Center mirrors the program in Eugene, following their training manual and using other resources made available to NODA program administrators across the country.
“The first round of training consisted of four classes of 2.5-hour sessions each time,” says Lois. “They are very detailed and intense at times, and also very rewarding. We are trained to just comfort patients and help them through their journey.”
The first set of training sessions were attended by seven PFAC members. Those seven individuals, consisting of community members and hospital staff, are now qualified to hold vigil with a patient in their final hours.
“We went over every scenario you could expect to experience as you are holding vigil with a patient,” says Kim. “It was very enlightening; the reactions from those at the first training were very positive. Death isn’t something that everyone wants to think about.”
The NODA volunteers completed training in early March. While they have not had the request to hold a vigil yet, they are already considering and preparing to train more volunteers to join the NODA team.