The CEAN Advance Care Planning Team were presented with a VCH People First Volunteer Excellence Award in 2016. Pat is on the left.

Conversations are key

After a healthcare career that included almost 22 years in Palliative Care at VCH, Pat Porterfield believes so much in the value of Advance Care Planning that she’s spending a portion of her retirement years as a volunteer facilitiating workshops on the topic.

As a member of CEAN, Pat leads a series of free Advance Care Planning workshops twice a year on the North Shore. Other CEAN members lead similar sessions across the region. The 1.5 hour sessions are designed to complement the My Voice Advance Care Planning Guide created by the Ministry of Health in partnership with the health authorities.

“The My Voice document – while a great tool and very fulsome – can be a bit intimidating,” acknowledges Pat. “People are so grateful for the sessions we offer. They get a chance to talk to each other, discuss ideas, and to learn from and support one another.”

The workshops help participants begin to articulate their values and wishes should they become seriously ill as well as identifying who can speak for them when they cannot. Participants then are encouraged to discuss their ideas and plans with their loved ones and health care providers.

Pat retired from VCH in 2012 after a career that included roles as Clinical Nurse Specialist of the Palliative Care Program at VGH as well as Lead of the Regional Palliative Program. It was in this latter role that Pat began working closely with Community Engagement to design the public ACP workshops she now facilitates. “I noticed that many people weren’t aware that advance care planning is different from legal and financial planning and is equally important. There were a lot of misconception and a need to help people address what’s really important to them for their quality of life and care, particularly when they’re seriously ill or dying.”

Pat says she’s also really excited about the work that VCH is doing to initiate conversations with people who have a serious illness (iPACE)To ask them about their wishes, worries and fears as their illness progresses. She believes that ACP, iPACE and other similar programs and initiatives complement each other nicely and are all working towards similar goals.

Advance Care Planning – ACP – intended for everyone over 19 years of age

ACP is an opportunity to encourage and incorporate patients’ wishes, values, and beliefs in care planning. Health care providers can support patients’ efforts to communicate health care decisions if they were to no longer be able to speak for themselves.

You can find a wide variety of helpful resources in the Advance Care Planning section of VCH Connect including powerpoint presentations, posters, handouts and templates and even some useful conversation openers.

Two public ACP workshops added in May

The following workshops are being offered to the public next month:

  • Thursday, May 24th 2018 from 6:30 – 8pm at the CIBC Centre for Patients and Families at Vancouver General Hospital
  • Tuesday, May 29th from 10:30am – 12pm at the Hope Centre at Lions Gate Hospital

Visit the CEAN web site for more information. Interested participants are encouraged to register as space is limited: or 604-714-3779

Integrating a Palliative Approach by having Conversations Early (iPACE) – intended to empower staff by giving them tools and resources so they are confident in starting goals of care conversations

A related project underway at VCH is iPACE. The goal of iPACE is to create a culture shift to integrate a palliative approach to care in services that includes identifying people with a serious illness who may benefit from a palliative approach to care; having conversations about goals of care with people and their families, ensuring documentation of goals of care conversations and outcomes, and, of course, making certain that client’s wishes and goals of care are respected.

Thanks to a generous donation from Robert and Greta Ho through the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation, iPACE is being rolled out across VCH in Richmond, Coastal and Vancouver in Acute and Community settings.

Read the personal story of Dara, an iPace lead at VGH who uses her close call with death to inform her work as an end-of-life leader – Dara’s brush with death a life changer

Staff resources are available on the iPACE section of VCH Connect including The Serious Illness Conversation Guide and Coastal conversation tool, a public engagement flyer and PARIS templates.

Information tables across VCH

Staff and volunteers from ACP and iPACE, will be setting up information tables at locations on National Advance Care Planning Day, Monday, April 16th, at the following locations around VCH. Stop by and say “hi”.

  • West Vancouver Community Centre– in central foyer
  • SFU – Harbourfront – on 2nd floor
  • Vancouver General Hospital – two locations; one near gift shop; other near cafeteria
  • Richmond Hospital – main lobby

“All of this work- the Advanced Care Planning and iPACE as well as other, related initiatives underway in health authorities and other organizations such as the BC Centre for Palliative Care – is helpful in ensuring that people have their most important needs addressed and get the care they want when they have a serious illness or at the end of their life.” Says Pat. “It also helps family members have confidence and feel empowered to act as that person’s advocate. An Advance Care Plan can also help with bereavement as it can give families great comfort to know that the values and wishes of their loved one were honoured.”

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