Patient and Family Advisors in action


Patient and Family Advisors (PFA) are an integral part of the committees/teams responsible for shaping policies and informing decisions at North York General Hospital (NYGH). They are volunteers and each one has a unique set of expertise they bring from their personal and/or professional life, as well as from the experience of being a patient or family member of someone who has received care at NYGH.

PFAs provide advice and input on all aspects of the hospital from capital projects, to patient education material to the overall organizational strategy.

A recent example of their work is the involvement of PFAs with the Baruch/Weisz Cancer Centre pharmacy team. In response to patient feedback, Mova Leung, a Clinical Pharmacist, embarked on a project to produce 16 videos about the side effects of various chemotherapy treatments, how to manage side effects and avoid them when possible.  

“Typically, a pharmacist will sit with a patient during their first chemotherapy appointment and review all of the potential side effects of the medication they are receiving,” says Mova. “This information is very important, but it is also a lot to take in all at once, which is why the idea of creating short, animated videos was appealing to patients.”

Patients will be able to view the videos on an iPad during their appointment, as well as access them at home on their personal computer or mobile device to re-watch them or show a family member. The videos are also available in four different languages to better serve our diverse communities.  Going forward, pharmacists and nurses will have the opportunity to spend more time with patients to answer questions or providing additional information and support.

Mova and the cancer team partnered with three PFAs: Margo Twohig, Michelle Hannikainen and Vittoria Pasquini to co-design the videos from the infancy stages of the initiative to ensure the patient and family perspective and voice was included.

“I thought the idea for the videos was very well thought out and helpful for cancer patients,” says Margo. When I was a patient at North York General, I received a tremendous amount of information and remember being a bit overwhelmed given everything that was happening. I like the fact that these videos will give patients the opportunity to learn about the side effects of chemo at a time they feel comfortable doing so, with the ability to press pause to take notes or re-watch parts for clarity.”

All three PFAs provided the pharmacy team with important feedback regarding the use of plain language, the types of visuals they found most appealing, as well as information that could be removed or details that needed to be added.

From a clinician’s perspective, Mova felt that the experience of partnering with NYGH PFAs was very rewarding and that she and her team learned a lot from Margo, Michelle and Vittoria about what is most important to patients who are receiving cancer treatment.

“Our PFAs are highly engaged in the work they do and bring a great deal of enthusiasm to the table,” says Mova. “It is clear that their goal is to make NYGH the best place for patients to receive care and their passion for Patient and Family Centred Care is evident.”

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