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Making a difference: Northern Health and Sally Rosevear, patient partner, work together to improve care in the North


Older woman with hair parted in centre and pulled back wearing a vest
Northern Health patient partner Sally Rosevear.

Northern Health strives to improve the quality of care for patients in the North. One important way we’ve been able to make improvements is with the help of patient partners – people who’ve had experience interacting with the health care system and who are willing to give us feedback to help improve care.

Patient partner perspectives

Patient partners are recruited through the Patient Voices Network, which offers a variety of ways for people to work with health care organizations to offer their perspective.

This is the story of how Sally Rosevear, a patient partner, worked tirelessly with Northern Health to help create an engaging training video about her experience. Jack and Sally’s Story has already garnered over 200 views.

Sally first reached out in a letter to Northern Health’s Patient Care Quality Office (PCQO) in March 2015 after the death of her husband Jack. She wanted senior leaders to be aware of her husband’s care experience so that improvements could be made.

“It’s important that we all have an opportunity to be heard,” says Sally. “Those in positions to initiate change need to ensure their decisions are timely and support the needs of both patients and employees, as well as those of the organization.”

Arrangements were made for Sally to receive an in-person apology from representatives from two of the areas responsible for her husband’s care. She also allowed her letter to be used as a case study to help improve the standard of care going forward. Sally left feeling her work was done.

A few weeks later, as Sally continued to process her grief, she reached out again to a nurse who had been particularly understanding and empathetic during her apology. That nurse took the time to listen to Sally and made arrangements to have the palliative care nurse who had attended Jack visit Sally in her home.

While chatting with the palliative care nurse, Sally realized the case study had focused on only a small area of Jack’s care, and that there were more areas of care needing improvement. Sally contacted the PCQO again with this information and more questions. Unfortunately, the PCQO was unable to answer all her questions. It was at this point that Sally contacted the Provincial Review Board for further assistance.

Although it took time for the Provincial Review Board to review her request, a review board officer interviewed Sally and went through medical records to complete a 23-page Complaint Case Report to the Patient Care Quality Review Board. Upon reading this document, Sally finally felt her story had been validated.

When the board met in May 2016, they recommended Northern Health take full advantage of Sally’s experience and feedback as an opportunity to make improvements by offering her the option to attend a meeting for a patient journey mapping session.

Before the session, Northern Health made every effort to explain the patient journey mapping process and was attentive to Sally’s comfort with the event, and Sally also followed up for further clarity.

Patient journey mapping

As the name implies, patient journey mapping aims to document an individual patient’s journey through the system for health care providers to understand the experience from the patient’s perspective, what was and was not important to them in their journey, and what emotions they experienced.

“The actual session was lengthy and emotionally draining for me, but the health care staff present gained a better insight from the session,” says Sally.

During the process of finalizing the patient journey map, Sally began to wonder if the map would be the best method to make improvements in care, or if they should consider other options.

In February 2017, Sally approached Northern Health Quality Improvement Lead Marlene Apolczer and another senior manager with her ideas and suggestions for materials to integrate into the original map format. Both were very supportive of Sally’s ideas.

In May 2017, three senior NH staff members, the PVN engagement leader, and Sally brainstormed how this work could be used within Northern Health.

Unfortunately, a number of factors, including the 2017 BC wildfires, interrupted the progress of this work.

Quality improvement conferences and training sessions

In September 2017, through her relationship with the PVN leader, Sally was invited to speak to the Prince George Division of Family Doctors as part of a module focused on end-of-life care and palliative care. Many family practice teams and supporting teams from within Northern Health who attended provided feedback that Sally’s story was the highlight.

Sally and Quality Improvement Lead Marlene Apolczer have co-presented at three large quality improvement conferences. After their presentation at the 2018 BC Patient Safety and Quality Council Quality Forum, under the heading “Turning Towards Those in Grief”, Sally and Marlene worked with Northern Health’s Education Services department to create a video that would bring Jack and Sally’s story to life.

Despite the 2018 wildfires, work was able to continue and Sally’s voiceovers were added to complete the video.

In November 2019, knowing she and Marlene would be presenting at the 2020 Quality Forum, Sally did all she could to gather the support and approval of Northern Health senior leadership to determine how the video could be used as a teaching tool. She hoped Northern Health could showcase the finished piece of work at this major health improvement conference. Unfortunately, approval was not received in advance of the presentation.

However, in June 2020, Sally received a letter supporting the work she and Marlene had accomplished that included a recommendation to form a working group to help complete the remaining tasks. The completed video, Jack and Sally’s Story, was made available for all staff on the LearningHub, an online education platform. Tina Strudsholm, Person and Family Engagement Lead, later developed a survey, established a working group and shared the survey feedback with the working group participants who continue to develop study guides.

Sally and Marlene have also used the video and facilitated training sessions for Northern Health’s Finance department, UHNBC managers, physicians, and UBC’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement, as a start.

Jack and Sally’s Story is an incredibly powerful and impactful video, and I admire the courage and persistence Sally has shown in sharing her story,” says Northern Health staff member Anne Scott.

Useful educational tools for health care providers

Over the past five years, having participated in a variety of patient engagements, Sally has enjoyed meeting and working with other patient partners and Northern Health staff, and has found it rewarding to see Jack and Sally’s Story evolve into a useful educational tool for health care providers.

With the input of patient partners like Sally, Northern Health will continue to improve care in the North.

Learn more about how Jack and Sally’s Story was developed: see Sally and Marlene’s presentation starting at 33:20 in this video from the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council’s Quality Forum 2020: Honouring the Patient and Family Experience for Meaningful Change.

Learn more about how you can become a patient partner today!