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Meet AC Patient Surveyor: Brenda Andreas

April 10, 2019

“I started from a place from deep pain and over time, moved to a place of vision and voice,” says Accreditation Canada (AC) Patient Surveyor Brenda Andreas.

AC Patient Surveyors
AC Patient Surveyors Heather Thiessen, Brenda Andreas (top right) & colleagues

Andreas’ own interaction with the health care system in Saskatchewan was swift. In a single year – 2010, she lost six family members including her parents to cancer.

Andreas says that at the time, she was “hurt and angry,” feeling that the health system had failed her family. “There were many obstacles along their patient journeys,” she says.

She notes that these obstacles arose despite the fact that her mother was an experienced member of the health care system, having been a nurse for 50 years at the Maple Creek Hospital in Saskatchewan.

Andreas says that after that challenging experience, she decided to try to improve the health care system.

“I told my mom that I will never speak ill of the health care system ever again. I am going to get involved and try to fix it,” she says. “And so, I began my journey as a Patient and Family Advisor.”

Andreas said that her own health care needs evolved as those of her family – who she refers to as “her village” – increased.

Brenda Andreas' mother
Brenda Andreas mother

“I am now in a place of belief and confidence as I collaborate equally in the determination of my health care and that of my village – not just in the delivery, but in the design and planning,” she says.

Andreas notes that she applied to volunteer for AC in 2017, and she was unexpectedly chosen to be a Patient Surveyor.

Andreas notes that up to this point, she had been involved in various quality improvement initiatives and research projects as a Patient and Family Advisor (PFA).

“But this opportunity took my experience as a PFA to a whole new level and helped me grow my skill set,” she says.

Andreas says that as a Patient Surveyor, she is now able to better understand the different perspectives that exist within the health care sphere.

“It gave me a new lens to understand the criteria for patient engagement,” she says. “I was able to better understand the behaviours needed not only by the organization, but by health care providers and the patient and family along the patient journey to ensure Patient- and Family-Centred Care.”

Andreas is a PFA with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA). She has also been a patient partner for 10 years.

She has extensive experience in long-term care, rehabilitation, geriatrics, palliative care and home care.

Andreas notes that her experience as a Patient Surveyor allowed her to grow her confidence in the importance of her experience as a patient and family member.

“It developed my critical thinking skills and improved my comfort level,” she says. “It gave me the confidence to be visible and to bring my voice into the conversation.”

She says that though there is a lot of conversation in health care about the value of patient engagement, more patients need to be educated about how they can participate.

“We talk about engagement, but we need to shift the conversation to include patients and family members in when, where, and how they can be engaged,” she says.

She notes that more patients need to know about the accreditation process and what it means.

“Knowing the criteria for engagement as identified by Accreditation Canada shapes and informs our engagement and behavior,” Andreas says. “We (patients and family members) would be as current and knowledgeable as the providers.”

Andreas is currently helping SHA in its transformation of bringing together 12 former Health Regions into one provincial Health Authority.

The process began in December 2017 and is a multi-year journey. Along with other AC Patient Surveyors Heather Thiessen and Colleen Bryant, who are also from Saskatchewan, Andreas is assisting the SHA to include the PFA perspective into the health authority.

“The SHA is a freight train coming down the track and collaboration is key to keeping it on the right track,” Andreas says. “This is where we are today – being visible and having a voice as our health authority moves forward in its transformation.”

Andreas and Bryant were part of a ‘Visioning Day’ that was held by the SHA to prepare for its accreditation process.

“Since then, Colleen, Heather and I, and many other PFAs have been involved in the provincial planning across the SHA,” Andreas says, adding that there are approximately 600 PFAs working in Saskatchewan.

AC has been including patient surveyors on accreditation surveys since March 2018.

Want to know more about how AC Patient Surveyors can benefit your organization’s quality improvement journey? Discover 5 Benefits of Patient Surveyors.