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Find the Helpers

MYTH - Presence of Essential Care Partners is nice to have, but doesn’t impact quality or safety

FACT - Having essential care partners present is a key part of patient and family centred care, which recognizes the mutually beneficial partnership between patients, families and healthcare providers. Patient- and family-centred care means recognizing the importance of family and caregiver presence and their participation in the care, quality and safety of patients. [1,2]

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital in Windsor has welcomed essential care partners since March 2020. More than 750 people have gone through the orientation. HDGH plans for their Designated Care Partner program to continue beyond the pandemic as they continue to value and recognize the essential role of care partners. Read this story from Janice Kaffer, CEO at HDGH.

Find the Helpers

HDGH has been on a journey for a number of years to ensure that patient voice, family presence and a robust patient and family advisory culture (PFAC)  is a foundation of our decision making, planning and service delivery. We have made great strides with a solid family presence policy crafted in partnership with our Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC), voting PFAC membership (2 members) on our Board of Directors which also has PFAC voice in our Board Quality of Care committee and numerous other improvements including family surveys and PFAC members as a resource to our inpatients and their families.

All of that is something I, as the CEO and also as a nurse for almost 40 years, have taken great pride in. It was my passion and my vision for what HDGH could be that gave rise to this evolution at our hospital and I am so pleased with the people, processes and the changes we’ve introduced to our organization and to our community. Don’t get me wrong, I have not done this alone – far from it – but leadership is about vision, about courage to do the right thing and the confidence to know that we’re headed in the right direction. Then the pandemic came and all of this was suddenly and without warning cancelled.

Cancelled family presence

Cancelled visitation

Cancelled caregivers who were with their loved ones every day ensuring their well-being on every level; physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.


I cannot tell anyone how hard that was to do. I, as the CEO who intentionally brought in patient families into our decision making, who envisioned our PFAC, is committed to family presence in our hospital, had to be the person to cancel it all. I was heartbroken and so were the leaders involved in dealing with the consequences of that decision. I stand by that decision as the right one at that time though because in the early days of the pandemic not one of us knew what we were dealing with nor did we understand the risks nor the mitigations that were possible. However, even though I knew it was the right decision, I knew I had to find a way as quickly as possible to change that decision for the betterment of our patients and their families. Ipad visits could only do so much – some of our patients truly needed their families to be with them for all the reasons listed above.

So I reached out to folks who know a lot more about what is possible than I did – I asked for help – I asked for advice – I asked for examples of where it was different and not surprisingly I got them all. I got help, advice and support from the caregiving community and as a result of that we made a different decision than CANCEL – we decided to INNOVATE – we decided to CREATE – we decided to TRY something new. As a result we introduced a new program into our hospital that, frankly, wouldn’t have come about without the pressure of this decision to not allow families in. We now have a Designated Care Partner program (DCP program) and it’s amazing!

Our patients have what they need from their families and our families are core to our high quality of care that we’ve been able to maintain through all the chaos of the pandemic. They are trained in the techniques needed to keep their loved ones safe and they understand their obligations and importance of staying true to the training. There have been a few bumps but those are to be expected and they are well worth it. We know so much now that it’s hard for me to imagine when we thought our only option was to CANCEL family presence in our hospital.

Our team will go over all the good stuff about the DCP program so I won’t do that but what I will say in closing is that I’ve taken away a few important lessons from this past year and one of them is this; When your heart and your soul tell you something isn’t right about what you’re doing – listen closely to that voice and find the helpers – they are always there and willing to help you find the way forward. I, along with our team, count ourselves among the helpers now and will happily help/support anyone who asks for it.

  1. Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care. “Patient-and Family-Centered Care.” (2010),
  2. Frampton, Susan B., Sara Guastello, Libby Hoy, Mary Naylor, Sue Sheridan, and Michelle Johnston-Fleece. “Harnessing evidence and experience to change culture: a guiding framework for patient and family engaged care.” NAM Perspectives (2017).