Pam Breese
Pam Breese, a UHN Patient Partner since 2017, says her role is “to bring the patient and family perspective, and to reinforce what matters most to patients regarding their care.” (Photo: Courtesy Pam Breese)

Pam Breese has seen firsthand how UHN's culture has shifted when it comes to quality and safety.

"Patients and families would often get lost in the discussions," says Pam, a UHN Patient Partner since 2017. "Now, their voice is at the centre of the conversation."

Pam went through a lengthy safety event review regarding her late daughter's care at UHN. Based on Pam's experience working with UHN officials in that process, and the accountability and empathy shown to her by staff and hospital leadership, she decided to become a Patient Partner to honour her daughter by advocating for patient safety. 

Around this time, UHN had embarked on a journey to become a high reliability organization, building a strong safety culture. There was a focus on educating all staff, physicians and leaders on safety behaviours and error prevention tools; reducing hospital acquired conditions, implementing a rigorous Root Cause Analysis program and embedding Patient Partners into all safety work, including Quality of Care Committees (QCC).

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Oct. 26 to 30 is Canadian Patient Safety Week. A national campaign started in 2005 to inspire extraordinary improvement and promote best practices in patient safety and quality.

"UHN's quality and safety efforts are a reflection of the importance that we place on patient safety," says Emily Musing, Vice President of Quality & Safety and UHN's Chief Patient Safety Officer. "I am so impressed and appreciative of the active engagement of UHN's leaders, staff and patient partners on this important priority."

In honour of Canadian Patient Safety Week, UHN is proud to share some of the measurable successes we have been able to achieve over the last few years, focusing on Quality and Safety.

Pam Breese, who was the first UHN Patient Partner to participate on the Toronto General Hospital QCC, says the learning curve was steep.

"There was so much clinical jargon it was daunting and I couldn't really understand where I fit on the Committee," she recalls. "I often felt like an observer rather than a participant." 

By tapping into the community of other QCC Patient Partners, and through dialogue with Committee leadership, her role became clearer and she now looks forward to meetings. 

'Everyone's input is encouraged and valued'

Pam believes her contributions are valued and respected, and her presence has an impact.

"I'm not there to criticize – I'm there to bring the patient and family perspective, and to reinforce what matters most to patients regarding their care," she says.

Pam has felt a palpable shift in culture, and personally witnessed a change she feels is very positive during her time as a UHN Patient Partner.

"Meetings are inclusive and respectful, where everyone's input is encouraged and valued," she says. "By recognizing that the Quality and Safety Teams have already reviewed the circumstances of an event and determined what occurred, most of the Committee's discussions now focus on recommendations to prevent recurrences and improve care, with mechanisms in place to track and monitor each recommendation."

UHN's new Patient Declaration of Values has been an amazing asset. Pam often refers to it when advocating for patients and families, especially around the values of transparency and accountability.

"It is so important to be honest and truthful when disclosing safety events to patients and families and to keep them informed during the review process," she says. "It helps to build trust and reassures families that UHN is committed to reducing preventable errors, improving practices and providing excellent care."

At a recent QCC meeting, Pam was thanked for '"anchoring us to what's important," which left her feeling inspired and appreciated.

Pam is now able to speak up for safety and is proud that UHN has created an environment where it is safe and encouraged to do so.

"I think it's a great Committee and I'm honoured to be a part of it," she says.

"We all work together to ensure that patients receive the very best care possible.

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