Patient Family Experience at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre during the Pandemic

By Jessica Schierbeck, Director, Strategic Solutions, CHA Learning

This article is part of a series of articles on the topic of People-Centered Care originally published on LinkedIn as part of Beryl Institute’s Patient Experience Week 2022.
You can find the original LinkedIn article here. 

To tie up Patient Experience week, I’d like to share the latest episode from CHA Learning’s podcast series, The HQ. The HQ is a podcast where we explore and discuss the topics relevant to healthcare today. The HQ focuses on the people that make up and lead our complex, adaptive system of healthcare. The podcast is hosted by CHA Learning’s Vice President of Learning & Development, Dale Schierbeck.

Look out for the self-reflection/discussion question at the end of the post.

One of our latest episodes features Lesley Moody, Clinical Director at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, speaks with Dale about the impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic on care and service, both positive and negative, and some of the innovative things they have been doing at Princess Margaret to continue to ensure the patient experience is positive.

I have known Lesley for a few years and greatly admire her, in part for her passion for advancing patient experience and people-centred care. Lesley was instrumental in helping us develop our People-Centred Care Program and was a leader in establishing Cancer Care Ontario’s patient engagement strategy and framework.

As you can imagine, receiving oncology care during the pandemic has been extra-scary for cancer patients. In the midst of active care for cancer, a person is immunocompromised. For Princess Margaret, it has been even more critical to keep COVID-19 out of the hospital, and they have been successful with no outbreaks to date.

In addition to the potential impact of the virus itself on patients’ health, there have been many other impacts on the patient and family experience. As we’ve heard throughout the pandemic, caregivers and family members have been heavily restricted from being able to go to the hospital with their loved ones. Caregivers and family members are critical to patients during care for many reasons, including providing emotional and psychological support, sharing important information with the care team, gathering and holding important information about the care plan and follow-ups, supporting patient safety, and so on. People undergoing cancer treatment can feel extremely anxious, scared and unwell, and not having their loved one by their side is a massive gap. As Lesley describes, they have had to limit the number of people who could be at patients’ bedside at the end of life, something that is unimaginable for both the patient and their family.

And while we know that a lot of important patient partnership work has stopped or slowed during the pandemic and patient and family experiences have been adversely affected, there have also been success stories and advances. Lesley speaks about some of these positive stories and successes in this episode, from how they have used navigators to support patients and even their COVID screeners have become patient experience ambassadors. She speaks about the member of their team who personally responds to feedback in their patient experience surveys. She speaks to both the challenges of providing care during a pandemic to a complex patient population with a staffing shortage; and the wins for Princess Margaret over the last two years and some of the data they have been measuring, including patients’ experience with virtual cancer care.

As Lesley captures the essence of the work they’ve been doing over the past two years: “in terms of the long-term picture, we’ve had to be very nimble in terms of our models of care, in view of a nursing shortage and in looking at the way we deliver care in person and virtually…We are constantly learning and evolving; there is never a static moment during this pandemic. That too has had an impact on both our workforce and our patients as they are adapting to all of the changes at the same time – so it’s top of mind for us to continue to address the impacts of the volume of change, the pace of change and the relentlessness of change.”

You can listen to Lesley talk openly and honestly about all of this and more on our website or you can find links to subscribe via your favourite podcast app.

Reflection/discussion question for today: Are there any innovations in patient engagement or experience you have seen or been a part of during the pandemic?