Patient and Family Advisors: Motivated to Make a Change

Patient and Family Advisors help make a difference for patients at the UW Carbone Cancer Center


Clinical staff of the UW Carbone Cancer Center takes pride in providing the best care they can to patients, and they are always looking for ways to improve. But serving on the provider side, there is a point of view they might be missing: that of the patients and/or caregivers.


To better receive input on decisions affecting patients, from how a waiting room is designed to improving health education literature, UW Health began its Patient and Family Advisor Partnership Program. The goal of the program is to create the best patient experience possible at UW Health through the input of approximately 200 patients or caregivers who serve on one of 12 Patient and Family Advisor Councils (PFACs). Carbone Cancer Center is mostly affiliated with the Oncology Services and Breast Center PFACs.


Laura Stoller, a UW Health Patient Family Advisor, shares what she sees is the value of the Patient Family Advisory CouncilLaura Stoller, one of about a dozen Patient and Family Advisors (PFA) with the Oncology Services PFAC, was asked to join after both her parents had been patients at Carbone Cancer Center. She became close with the staff caring for her parents, and she would often provide them with informal feedback.


“With my parents, every now and then something would come up and I’d say to the staff, ‘We really loved this,’ or, ‘I noticed this; is there something I can do to change it?’” Stoller said. “To have the hospital ask patients and family members, through these PFACs, what they like and don’t like about something, it’s fantastic. I’m so impressed with UW Health’s commitment to the process.”


In just over two years of serving as a PFA, Stoller has participated in projects that were oncology specific, and she has had the opportunity to advise in other areas. She has helped improve cancer patient education materials and worked with clinical staff on procedural ways to reduce infections from catheters. Additionally, she has worked on projects made available to all PFAs in the different councils. For example, she helped ensure signage at the UW Health at the American Center was easy to follow for new visitors.


Stoller said she was initially hesitant to join when asked, because she did not have many complaints and she was worried she might not have much advice to give. Now, after two years of being a PFA, she sees the value of serving the council, both to UW Health and to herself.


“I think it’s great that it’s not just patients, that they also want to hear from family members such as myself, because we can sometimes offer a unique perspective,” Stoller said. “And some of the things we learned were fascinating! We took a tour of a lab to see what new research they were doing there and we took tours of infusion rooms because not all of us experienced them.”


Any patient, family member or caregiver who is interested in joining a PFAC can discuss it with a member of their care team or apply online. Meetings take place quarterly in the evening at University Hospital.


“The PFAC is a great group of people,” said Kendra O’Connell, RN, the Carbone Cancer Center cancer clinic manager who also co-chairs the Oncology Services PFAC. “They are really motivated to make things better for everybody.”



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Date Published: 03/07/2017

News tag(s):  Advancespfac

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