In this section :

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

The following dates are confirmed, and we will populate the Huddle themes and speakers as they are confirmed. If you’re interested in presenting, or have a suggestion for a topic, please reach out to the team.


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.

November 24, 2021, 1:00pm – 1:45pm (ET)

December 8, 2021, 1:00pm – 1:45pm (ET)


Past Huddles

October 13, 2021: Essential Care Partner - Bringing Evidence to Life and Busting Myths through Stories


  • Carol Fancott, Director, Patient Engagement and Partnerships, Healthcare Excellence Canada


  • Maggie Keresteci, Caregiver Advocate, Executive Director CAHSPR, PCAG Co-chair
  • Lisa Raffoul, Patient Advocate, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor, PCAG Member
  • Pamela Libralesso, RSSW, Founder, Ontario Families of Group Home Residents, PCAG Member
  • Serena Thompson, Vice President, Sickle Cell Association, Patient Advocate, PCAG Member

Watch the recording via YouTube

This huddle will share stories, bust myths and clarify the facts that show how essential care partners benefit care, experience, safety and outcomes, including during COVID-19. Stories written by members, colleagues and friends of the Essential Together Patient and Caregiver Advisory Group bring evidence to life and demonstrate the vital role essential care partners play in a patient’s care team.

September 23, 2021: Family Presence Policies – The latest evidence and policy guidance


  • Jessie Checkley, Senior Program Lead, Patient Engagement and Partnerships


  • Carol Fancott, Director, Patient Engagement and Partnerships, Healthcare Excellence Canada
  • Shoshana Hahn-Goldberg Senior Program Lead ​Representing Healthcare Excellence Canada​ Patient Engagement and Partnerships

Watch the recording via YouTube

This huddle will provide an overview of updated policy guidance and evidence for implementing family presence policies in health and care settings, including during the pandemic.

During 2020, policy guidance regarding family presence policies was co-developed with range of people with expertise and COVID-19 related experience, including providers, administrators, patients, families and caregivers. Using the latest evidence about the impact of restrictive policies on patient outcomes, this policy guidance has been updated to reflect the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This session is particularly relevant for healthcare decision makers and those implementing policy that impacts on essential care partners' access to loved ones in any health and care setting.

June 30, 2021: Staff training to support family-centred care during COVID-19

Speakers: Dr. Jasneet Parmar (Care of the Elderly physician and Associate Professor at the Department of Family Medicine, University of Alberta) and Cecilia Marion (Senior Director of Operations, Addictions, Mental Health and Continuing Care, Covenant Health).

Watch the recording via YouTube

Key resources:

June 9, 2021: Caregiver ID – A tool to support the reintegration of essential care partners during the pandemic and beyond

Speakers: Alison Kilbourn (Project Lead, Strategic Partnerships and Innovation, Ontario Caregiver Organization) and Jennifer Killing (Vice-President - Quality, Research and Strategic Partnerships, peopleCare Communities)

Watch the recording via YouTube

Key resources:

May 26, 2021: Family Presence – Mutual Expectations

Speakers: Kristin Grunert (Director, Patient and Family Centered Care and Area Engagement), Amber Clarke (Patient and Family Centred Care Specialist) and Erin Kell (Patient and Family Centred Care Specialist) from the Saskatchewan Health Authority

Watch the recording via YouTube

May 6, 2021: Essential Together, moving co-developed policy into practice across Alberta Health Services

Speakers: Chris Mayhew (Senior Consultant, Engagement and Patient Experience, Alberta Health Services) and Dean Radbourne (Patient and Family Advisor, Alberta Health Services Patient and Family Advisory Group)

Watch the recording via YouTube

Key resources (currently English only):

April 8, 2021: ”Mrs Jones, who are your essential care partners?”

Speaker: Lisa Raffoul, Patient Advocate, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare

Watch the recording via YouTube

Key resources (currently English only):

March 25, 2021: Supporting staff in the safe reintegration of essential care partners

Speaker: Jennifer Cornell, Director of Long-Term Care, Grey County

Watch the recording via YouTube

Key resources (currently English only):

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:

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.

Family may include relatives and non-relatives and is defined by the patient.

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.

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.

Patients includes residents and clients.