This is the second of two detailed experiences of patient advisers at The Ohio State University Medical Center (OSUMC), written to coincide with the national Patient-Centered Care Awareness Month.

My experience of becoming an adviser was due to many health consequences, which has surrounded my life the past 13 years. I am a single mother of two children with special health care needs, a primary caregiver to my grandmother, and have Power of Attorney for my disabled father. Moreover, four years ago I was severely injured in a motor vehicle accident. Between my personal experiences and other family members, I saw an opportunity to help others and to be a voice or advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.

I became an adviser so I could use my personal health care experiences and education to improve care for future patients and families. In this role, I wanted to create a sustainable partnership between the advisers and medical staff. And truly, I am excited to be part of this social movement to create and enhance sustainable partnerships for future of medicine.

I became interested in volunteering, as I wanted to give back in some way, but could not commit to a regular weekly volunteer role. I learned of the adviser program and the varied commitment it required; and started with reviewing materials and doing email discussions. As time passed, I continued to grow personally, both emotionally and physically. I actually decided to go back to school to get my Ph.D. in management, specializing in leadership and organizational change. As a result, I began to get more involved in health care and the adviser program at OSUMC. I also joined the Buckeye Babies Advisory Council.

From those experiences, I became more confident and began speaking at New Employee Orientation, where I shared my personal story as a patient and caregiver. I then began to participate on the system-wide Patient Advisory Council AND serve as a patient adviser representative on the high-level Patient Experience Council, which included all of the CEOs and CNOs and some top-performing physicians across OSUMC.

I’m thankful that the adviser program has given me a voice – and increased my self confidence and ability to advocate for myself, my children and my family. I enjoy being involved in a program that helps generate new ideas and working with other advisers and staff who like to brainstorm how to solve a problem. Since I’m working on my Ph.D., I have also been able to participate in the partnerships from both an academic and a patient perspective. I’ve been able to see cultural and behavioral changes occurring within OSU for the betterment of the patient experience. This is a multidisciplinary team approach – physicians, nurses, management/leadership, and advisers are working together to provide a unique perspective by sharing personal stories and experiences.

Creating or joining advisory boards can be very time consuming and confusing but here are simple suggestions for new advisers:

  • be yourself
  • have a voice
  • share personal experiences

Advice For staff – I would encourage the multidisciplinary team approach and include physicians, nurses, management and leadership at all levels. But do not forget to include ADVISERS.

In closing, do not be afraid to involve advisers, as they can provide a unique perspective by sharing their personal stories and experiences. After all, we are the FACES of your customer.

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Cortney Forward, MBA
Patient/Family Experience Advisor
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center