Patient/Family Advisor: Improving the Healthcare Experience for Everyone

Karen Goldman

Patient/Family Advisor: Improving the Healthcare Experience for Everyone

As one of the founding members of the Patient and Family Advisory Council, Karen Goldman has spent the past four and a half years helping to keep the patient perspective front and center at AAMC. For the past two years, she’s been co-chair of the council, and is passing the baton to allow new leadership. While she will remain on the council, she’s taken this opportunity to reflect on why she became involved and what the experience has meant to her.

The main reason I became involved with AAMC is because they saved my husband’s life in 2004. I live one mile from the hospital so it’s been the hospital of choice by geography, but then my husband had a massive coronary and ended up in the ER. In addition to the medical treatment which was lifesaving, the staff just never gave up. He coded twice— so this was a dramatic situation— and the impact of that, for me, was just profound.

I was the director of patient relations at another hospital system so I understood the significance of that kind of dedication. I saw how well the interventional cardiologist Dr. Mejia and other medical staff at cared for him. That whole experience made it very real and I saw that they were really there for us when we needed them. AAMC became not only hospital of choice by geography, but it is our hospital of choice because of their excellence.

And that’s when I decided to get involved. I just wanted to help the hospital in my community be even better and I felt that I had skills to help them do that. With experience as a family member and as a hospital social worker, I was one of initial founders of the council. Then, just last year, I had a heart attack and I now have the experience of a patient as well. All of this really drove home the meaning of patient-family centered care.

On the advisory council we emphasize the term “patient-family centered care” and ensure education for the whole staff to make sure it’s hard-wired throughout the hospital. Whether a staff member is working in the cafeteria, whether they’re helping to achieve a sterile environment by cleaning rooms, whether it’s surgeons, or bedside staff, everyone is involved in helping patients to feel welcomed and to make sure patients are honored and their feelings are heard.

Being a part of the patient family advisory council has been a very powerful thing for me—being able to give back in ways that impact patients and family members and help take the hospital to such a high level of care. I like to say I have seen the hospital go from great to even greater.

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