In 2014, a focused effort began in Richmond to embed a person and family centered approach across Richmond MHSU services. One of the first quick wins was the removal of the large, red STOP sign at the entry to 2West during the summer of 2015 (pictured above). Since then, much more has been accomplished by the Person & Family Centered Care (PFCC) steering committee, including the embedding of 19 Patient Advisors into all aspects of care across MHSU services in Richmond.

Influence of Partner Advisors grows in Richmond MHSU

At a time when many are staring retirement in the face, Andy Birch, 64, feels he’s finally in a position to offer a unique perspective to VCH in terms of its Human Resources related to person-centered care.

Birch has been a member of the Person & Family Centered Care (PFCC) steering committee since November. As a Partner Advisor, Birch sits as an interview panel member for Richmond Mental Health and Substance Use (MHSU) employee and physician positions.

With 18 interviews under his belt, Birch brings lived-experience to VCH Richmond’s hiring processes as someone who has waged a 22 year long battle with schizophrenia. “I find that my concerns are different from those of the other panel members,” he said. “While they are madly writing, I’m looking at the person’s personality more than anything else. You need to see that their heart is in the right place.”

An active volunteer within the Pathways Clubhouse recovery community, a father and grandfather, Birch said his six decades of life have taught him a thing or two about humanity and survival.

“I think being old is an advantage in this case,” he said, “I’ve gone through schizophrenia and have come out the other side in fairly good shape. It gives people hope that they can enjoy life again.”

Transforming care across MHSU programs 

Birch is one of 19 Partner Advisors currently at work across Richmond MHSU services.

While Birch participates in panel interviews, he and other advisors share personal stories and participate in team meetings; review and advise on policy; review the family orientation materials, or co-facilitate the Family Support Group.

The culture shift that Partner Advisors represent is noticeable to those both inside and outside of VCH Richmond.

“For the first time I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a job with VCH by a panel that included a Patient Advisor,” said one job applicant after a recent interview for a position with Richmond MHSU Services. “In addition to the standard interview questions, the Patient Advisor asked unique questions from a perspective that is not often represented in the interview room. It made me think about the language I used when answering my questions, and if I speak in a way that is inclusive and makes sense to everyone… It makes sense to be interviewed by someone who represents the people we are providing services to.”

Much progress in three years

A focused effort to embed a person and family centered approach across Richmond MHSU services began in 2014.

With generous support from donors and the Richmond Hospital Foundation, a site assessment by the Institute of Patient & Family Centered Care (IPFCC) was conducted as a first step. The assessment involved a review of current policies and processes as well as feedback from providers, family members and clients.  The resulting report provided recommendations for how to build on and enhance the person and family centered practices already in place and how to incorporate new, innovative ideas.

Underlying this work is the core value that clients and families have a critical role to play in planning, evaluating and delivering services. These efforts take the engagement of clients and families beyond consultation, to active participation as partners in care, and in system design and development.

Work on PFCC priorities and actions continue across all Richmond MHSU teams, and the philosophy of care has now become part of the local orientation of new staff. PFCC principles are also being used to inform environmental changes and the design of new program spaces. The impact of PFCC efforts will be evaluated in early 2018 as part of a research partnership with the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University.

Richmond MHSU is a leader in adopting the BC Ministry of Health principles for Patient Centered Care and received a VCH People First Award for the PFCC initiative.

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