‘I want to make it easier for other people’: a patient and family advisor tells her story

March 31, 2017

Colleen Bryant studied microbiology in university, worked as a transcriptionist, and was employed for years as an IT professional. She’s also been a patient in the Saskatchewan health system and served on the Board of the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region. After retiring from the Board, she maintained her involvement in healthcare by taking part in workshops and serving on numerous committees in order to bring a key perspective to the table: that of the patient. It was all out of a desire to help others and contribute positively to sustainable improvements in the delivery of healthcare services.

We talked with Colleen to learn more about her and her work as a patient and family advisor.

Tell us about yourself and your background in health.

I used to work in IT but I’ve always been interested in health. In fact, I studied microbiology at university. Soon after I retired in 2009, I was approached about becoming a Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region board member. I said, “I don’t know much about boards” but my recruiter said, “That’s OK. We would like to use your other skills.” So that was the start of my journey in health. And it didn’t take long before I was hooked.

After retiring from the Board, I knew I wanted to do something that was direct and practical. I started getting involved in continuous improvement work as a patient advisor. By taking part in rapid process improvement workshops, you really feel the power of being able to make a big difference in just one week. For patients, it’s wonderful. And to see what is happening in health today and the improvements the province is making, it’s just really, really exciting.

How did you become involved in the Shared Services Oversight Committee (SSOC) as a patient and family advisor?

I am a member of the provincial guiding coalition for patient and family advisors and someone from 3sHealth is also on that committee. One day she phoned me and asked if I’d be interested in joining. She mentioned that the committee is doing a lot of work on the provincial transcription services project. I had heard of that project and it’s one with so many benefits. So that was a big reason for me to get involved with SSOC. In fact, when I was a post-secondary student I worked as a hospital transcriptionist for a summer, so I have an idea of what is involved in terms of the work and how things used to be. I thought, “I would really like to be involved with this!”

Each of us will be a patient sooner or later and right now I am a patient. It has been a difficult journey so I wanted to make it easier for other people. Every patient who contributes can help make the system better.

What do you make of the changes happening provincially in transcription services?

I think it just makes total sense. There are so many duplications throughout the province, but 3sHealth is ahead of the curve. It just makes sense to do things provincially, especially now with the technology that’s available.

And for patients, I love that the focus is on faster reports. It can be frustrating and stressful for patients, especially those from rural areas who have to come in to a larger centre for tertiary care, because sometimes their records don’t get here before they do, so tests have to be repeated. A provincial service will make such a difference.

My focus while I was on the RQHR board was quality and safety. From a safety standpoint, I know that for providers, having the complete records of their patients within 24 hours is huge.

What do you think about patients having a seat at the table?

It’s amazing. One of the wonderful things about being a patient advisor is that you get to speak to the people who can make the changes. They are committed to listening to patients, which is such an incredible step forward. It is one area where Saskatchewan is doing very well; having patients on most committees and involving us in improvement work is really the way of the future. Why would you not be talking to the people that you’re doing the work for? It just makes so much sense. As a patient I’m very grateful for the opportunity and I take this responsibility very seriously. I really appreciate the opportunity to be heard and to be involved.

What projects do you think have the most potential to positively impact care?

The transcription project is one, absolutely. Another recent project was the implementation of smart pumps and the building of the provincial drug library. This is an amazing success story for the health system!

I was sitting in the cafeteria at the Regina General one day and some student nurses walked by. They were talking about smart pumps and so I asked them what they think of the pumps. They said, “It’s just awesome!” They talked about how it really helps prevent mistakes. I remember thinking, “Oh wow. As a patient, that’s so good to hear!”

I can’t wait to see where we go next.

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