HALIFAX: It’s now easier to become a patient family advisor (PFA) with Nova Scotia Health.

PFAs are patients, their family members and/or care partners who volunteer as active members of Nova Scotia Health teams. They provide feedback that helps teams as they set priorities and make decisions that can impact the health care system and the community.

Juanna Ricketts has been a PFA for several years in a variety of roles. She now chairs Nova Scotia Health’s Patient Family Public Advisory Council (PFPAC), which was formed to advise senior leaders, health care providers, staff and physicians on policies, practices, planning and delivery of patient and family-centered care.

The PFPAC currently has six vacancies: three in Eastern Zone (Cape Breton, Guysborough and Antigonish areas), one in Northern Zone (Colchester-East Hants, Cumberland and Pictou areas) and two in Central Zone (Halifax area, Eastern Shore and West Hants).

“When I started as a PFA, I wasn’t sure what I could contribute, but I’ve discovered that my voice and experience as a patient and family member can make a real difference,” said Ricketts. “It’s important that the Patient Family Public Advisory Council reflects the people Nova Scotia Health serves, so I encourage people with lived experience in the health system and a desire to improve the health system, to consider the opportunity.”

Program across Nova Scotia Health involve PFAs in different ways. PFAs sit on redevelopment projects, quality teams and advisory councils in a wide range of care areas.

People interested in becoming a PFA can now call toll-free 1-833-732-5646 (1-833-PFA-JOIN) or email pfajoin@nshealth.ca. Our team will work with you to find an opportunity that matches your health care experience and interests.

“Being a volunteer patient family advisor is a great way to make a difference and improve the health care system for you, your loved one and others,” said Debbie LeLievre, Nova Scotia Health’s patient experience lead and director of quality improvement and safety in Eastern Zone. “The addition of the phone line and email make it easier, less formal and more accessible for people to become PFAs.”

By adding the phone line and email, LeLievre hopes it will encourage people from a variety of backgrounds to share their experiences and insights.

“You don’t have to have a background in health care to be a PFA,” she said. “All you need is experience with Nova Scotia Health as a patient, family member or essential care partner. Your input can help improve the care we provide.”

Besides the phone line and the email, people interested in becoming a PFA can use an online application form if they prefer a more formal process.

These roles help to bring the patient/family perspective to the table. As a result, people cannot apply to become a PFA if they are a current Nova Scotia Health staff member, hospital foundation/auxiliary member or elected official.

LeLievre also hopes to build relationships in communities across the province to raise awareness about the role of PFAs and encourage people to volunteer as a PFA.

“Having the patient or family/caregiver voice is important in our efforts to make improvements,” she said. “Everyone has a different experience so being able to hear from even more people will help us better identify what we are doing well and where we need to improve.”

Anyone interested in becoming a PFA can call 1-833-732-5646 (1-833-PFA-JOIN), email pfajoin@nshealth.ca or fill out the application form at https://www.nshealth.ca/pfa.