Some Carle patients are lucky enough to get away with seeing their healthcare providers for just an annual checkup or the occasional flu. For Ruthie Harper of Champaign that unfortunately has not been the case.
“I’ve had a long and strenuous experience with the Carle healthcare system,” Harper said. “I'm a 37 year breast cancer survivor, I suffer with asthma, spinal stenosis back pain and cluster headaches, also known as suicide headaches, I've had both knees replaced, and I'm a carrier of the sickle cell anemia trait.”
But even with those experiences, Harper never lost her optimism and always found comfort in the relationships she built with her care team.
“I've always felt comfortable to discuss any concerns that I may have regarding my health or medications,” she said.
Her willingness to speak up prompted her primary doctor to recommend she use her voice on a Carle Patient and Family Advisory council and she followed through, joining the Monticello and Champaign-Urbana groups.
And, she hopes others will join her. Carle is currently accepting applications to join their advisory councils. Learn more at https://carle.org/Patients-Visitors/Patient-Family-Advisory-Councils.
“There are many folks that have problems, concerns or questions about their healthcare, but do not know who to turn to or where to express their questions and concerns,” Harper said. “By joining the council and providing feedback on things that concern my family, friends and the general public, I feel like I'm a bridge that connects them with the medical professionals.”
Beginning several year ago, Patient and Family Advisory Councils give patients and families a voice in the planning, delivery and evaluation of Carle departments and services. Each council partners directly with a specific service or department to provide oversight and guidance. Councils consist of eight to twelve volunteers who meet quarterly to discuss current and future programs and initiatives.
At such a critical time in our nation for healthcare, Carle hopes to add more community members like Ruthie who will speak up on behalf of their families and neighbors to one of the seven councils throughout our service area connecting with the health system.
“We’re looking for patients and family members to share their experiences to continue improving the patient experience for others,” Anastasia Wilczynski, education consultant for the Carle Experience said. “Council advisors know that their input is truly making a difference for our patients, helping us achieve greater efficiency and better practice models throughout our facilities. They can impact the lives of others and make someone’s journey to health just a little bit easier.”
Council advisors must be willing to serve a 12-18 month term and attend quarterly two-hour meetings in-person, or virtually if necessary, during that time period. They should be comfortable speaking and sharing ideas in a small group and to provide feedback and guidance on services and program. Advisors also serve as an ambassador to endorse activities, material and programs that support Carle patients.
“Thanks to the feedback and partnership of members of the Patient and Family Advisory Councils, Carle has been able to address a variety of issues we may not have known was a focus for the people we serve,” Wilczynski said. “Just in the past couple of years we have made improvements to the look and language in clinic After Visit Summary documents, improved the effectiveness of signage at Carle at The Fields, and optimized the check-in kiosk usage in clinic locations.”
New advisors can anticipate tackling issues like patient experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual medical visits, our drive-through lab process, visitor and family communication and patient experience trends.
Harper is excited to continue to be that bridge as the councils work on maintaining transparency and communication from the medical community to the public through such a challenging year.
“My participation allows me to speak for others and bring their experience to the table. I feel that God is using me as a reflection of the diversity for the area that is being served and offer suggestions for improvements and also allows me to share progress and changes regarding Carle with the public,” Harper said.
If you have questions about joining a council, please contact (217) 383-4122 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Apply today by completing either the online application, or print and mail the hard copy application to the following address:
Attn: Patient & Family Councils
611 W. Park St.
Urbana, Illinois 61801