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Essential Together Huddles: Connecting for peer-to-peer learning and support

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in blanket visitor restrictions that prohibit essential care partners from accessing loved ones in health and care facilities. Although the restrictive policies were put in place with the best intentions, they bring known risks and unintended harm to patients and families and moral distress to staff. To support organizations to safely welcome back essential care partners, Healthcare Excellence Canada launched Essential Together Huddles.

Essential Together Huddles:

  • Connect and bring together those who create, implement or experience family presence policy during the pandemic and beyond.
  • Create an open, safe and supportive space for people to share with and learn from others facing similar challenges.
  • Enable learning across various health and care settings

Essential Together Huddles are open to anyone and designed particularly for those people and organizations formally participating in the Essential Together program.

Huddle Format:

Huddles run for just 45 minutes. They involve a 15 minute presentation from subject matter experts and/or organizations sharing how they’re implementing policy guidance to reintegrate essential care partners during the pandemic. Following each presentation, we have a group discussion to help encourage peer-to-peer learning and support.

We welcome you to share your experiences, both successes and challenges. We want participants to come away from each Huddle with practical tools and/or learning they can apply to their work.

Upcoming Huddles

Partners in Care: Implementation of the Essential Caregiver Program at Oak Valley Health

February 15, 2023


Kanwal Ali, Quality and Patient Safety Specialist

Elaine Richards, Manager, Quality and Patient Safety

Michelle Samm, Director, Quality, Patient Safety, Patient Experience & Relations and IPAC

Oak Valley Health developed an Essential Caregiver Program to support the safe reintegration of families and loved ones in the patient’s care throughout their hospital journey. Essential caregivers are chosen by the patient to assist with patient care and well-being while in the hospital and are considered to be an integral part of the care team. This session will provide an overview of the development and implementation of this program.

Recognition of Essential Care Partners as Members of the Care Team

March 15, 2023


Carol Fancott, Director, Patient Engagement & Partnerships, Healthcare Excellence Canada 

Jessie Checkley, Senior Program Lead, Patient Engagement & Partnerships, Healthcare Excellence Canada 

This huddle will provide an overview of new policy guidance on the role of essential care partners as part of the care team intended for healthcare decision makers, notably system-level policy makers and system leaders. This policy guidance was co-developed through a series of virtual policy labs that included policy decision-makers, health system leaders who implement policy, and the people who are impacted by policy decisions – providers, administrators, patients, families and caregivers. It builds on earlier Policy Guidance for the Reintegration of Caregivers as Essential Care Partners.

Register to attend Essential Together Huddles

If you can’t join live, but are interested in the content, please register anyway. We’ll email you a recording of the presentation component from each Huddle, as well as posting the recording on this webpage

If you’re interested in presenting, or have a suggestion for a topic, please reach out to the team.

We know there is different language and terminology used across the country, but to make sure we provide as much clarity as possible, in this context:

Blanket visitor restrictions refer to restrictions that extend to all “visitors” entering a facility, often without exceptions, including essential care partners.

Essential care partners provide physical, psychological and emotional support, as deemed important by the patient. This care can include support in decision making, care coordination and continuity of care. Essential care partners are identified by the patient (or substitute decision maker) and can include family members, close friends or other caregivers.

Patients includes residents and clients.

Patient partners include patients, residents, clients, families, caregivers and care partners, and others with lived experience who are working together with teams to improve the quality and safety of healthcare.

Health and care facilities refers to hospitals, long-term care/residential care/nursing homes and other congregate care settings as well as primary care and outpatient care settings.

Open family presence policies support the presence of essential care partners at patient bedside at any time and not restricted by “visiting hours.”