N.C. Cancer Hospital Patient and Family Advisory Board holds its first retreat

The first retreat of the N.C. Cancer Hospital Patient and Family Advisory Board (PFAB) was held on Saturday, September 15 at Carolina Point II.

One of the groups working at the retreat. From Left: Bob Harrison, Don Rosenstein, MD, Comprehensive Cancer Support Program Director, Ryan Keith, Graham Henry, Wanda Wooten and Rosalina Rodriquez

Eighteen patient/caregiver board members and four staff members attended the day-long event.  The retreat was facilitated by three team members from the Departments of Operational Efficiency and Innovation. 

Marlene Rifkin, RN, Senior Vice President for Women's and Children's and Oncology Services, gave the welcome address and thanked the board members for their commitment and many hours of hard work.  Ken Steenson, MSW, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, UNC Health Care, spoke at lunch.

From the beginning the board members came to work and learn, to collaborate and listen, to plan for the next three years and get to know one another in a non-working relationship. 

The purpose of the retreat was multifaceted:  the board wanted to clarify its mission statement, discuss the partnering relationships between board members and staff, see where the board will be in the coming three years, gain a better understanding of “collaborating with patients and families” and evaluate the board’s performance and identify opportunities for improvement.

Beth Willis and Jonathan Thornhill
Beth Willis and Jonathan Thornhill, two of retreat facilitators, hard at work.

What has the board accomplished? They have become a model for other areas of the hospital and the PFAB is being integrated on all planes – administration, nursing, and teaching. They are recognizable and part of the mechanism of culture change. Board members currently serve on 11 cancer hospital committees and five committees from UNC Health Care.

How does the organization benefit from our work? The hospital has become more patient and family centered, the board is a vital source for feedback and there is an increase in patient satisfaction and efficiency.

What makes the organization successful and effective? The diversity and background of the board, its consensus of core values and the drive of its members to make improvements are among the reasons staff seek the board’s input.

What are other organizations saying about the board’s work? The board is recognized for its honesty, integrity and commitment to excellence. It is not uncommon to hear staff members ask, “Have you run it by the PFAB?”

How does the work of this team affect change? There has been an increase in patient satisfaction scores, better overall experiences for patients, continued patient and caregiver advocacy, better communication with staff and more community visibility.

Top priorities for next three years

Improve the patient and caregiver experience by:

  • Increase the rounding on all areas
  • Patient to patient support to link disease specific patients with a patient recovered patient
  • UNC hires a full time coordinator to develop the caregiver program
  • PFAB member interacts with clinic process

Increase endowment and philanthropy

Internal improvements

  • N.C. Cancer Hospital PFAB becomes a national model of patient and family centered care
  • Partnering with decision makers in the institution
  • Reflecting the community it serves
  • Developing an evaluation process to gauge progress
  • Developing a training program for new board and committee members

Strategic involvement on all levels of the cancer hospital

  • Work closely with existing PFAB to change from top down
  • Find evidence of hospital’s focus on Partnering with Patients and Families
  • Collaborate with administration
  • Collaborate with other boards in the hospital
  • Board involvement in hiring department heads and evaluations of same