Nova Scotia Health recruiting ‘Patient Family Advisors.’ But what is their role?

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Nova Scotia Health on Thursday called for volunteers to join a “patient, family, and public advisory council” and has made the joining process easier.

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A “patient family counselor” (PFA) is someone who has experience with the health system — as a patient or caregiver — and advocates for healthcare policies.

Juana Ricketts is a PFA and presides over the advisory council. Her mother Sheila collapsed and broke her hip in 2020, but due to COVID visitor restrictions, her family could not visit her at the hospital during her rehab.


“You know what it was like for me not to see him – and for him not to see us? His kids, his sisters,” she explains. “There is nothing worse than being in the hospital and being alone.”

It was here that he used his role to speak up and address concerns.

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“He made the changes, he made our voices heard,” Ricketts says. “They said ‘Okay, we’ll allow for two nominees.'”

Nova Scotia Health’s Patient Experience Lead says the council has an important role to play in its advocacy.

“We don’t know everything, so we need to look ahead and get a different perspective,” explains Debbie Lelliver, who is also the Eastern Region’s director of quality improvement and safety. “And that’s where we get patients and families involved.”

The council was established in 2016. There are currently 154 volunteers or PFAs.

But the council, which is made up of 12 volunteers, has six vacancies that have opened up across the province within the past year that they want to fill. Nova Scotia Health launched a toll-free number Thursday and shared an email to find out more: 1-833-732-5646 (1-833-pfa-join) or email [email protected]

Lelivar says the vacancies don’t mean there won’t be representation.

“I’m not worried,” she says. “We have filled those seats earlier. We also have people who have come forward saying they are interested.”

“PFAs sit on redevelopment projects, quality teams and advisory councils across a wide range of care areas,” the news release said.

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“We want everyone’s voice in Nova Scotia to be involved,” says Leliver.

“Please, please consider making changes for our hospitals,” Ricketts pleads. “If not for you, but for our generation that is following us.”

The council meets monthly to discuss health care issues and policies.

“They come with, you know, maybe a new plan, a new way of doing this process, that process, and we listen to what they have to say,” Ricketts says. “We offer our lived experience because it is great to have information on paper because it is academic – and it is needed and needed – but they also need lived experience.”


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