Carolyn Canfield’s discovery of patient safety and quality improvement began following the death of her husband in 2008 from failures in care, eight days after successful surgery. For the past six years she has devoted her efforts to improving the system as a dedicated volunteer to inform and inspire patient engagement in healthcare improvement and to promote patient safety locally and internationally. The Canadian Patient Safety Institute and Accreditation Canada are pleased to recognize Carolyn Canfield as the individual recipient of the Canadian Patient Safety Champion Award for 2014.
What distinguishes Carolyn’s efforts is that her personal motivation comes from her compassion for those providing care and the challenges they face every day. One of her nominee’s, Joanne Archer (BC Provincial Health Services Authority), says that Carolyn honours the professions and acknowledges that healthcare workers are caring people inside a complex, difficult environment. “Carolyn steadfastly focuses her efforts at collaborative system reform and support for, rather than persecution of, healthcare providers,” says Joanne Archer. “Carolyn’s translation of a tragic loss and failed accountability into a passion for patient safety and voluntary career committed to collaboration speaks profoundly of her innate leadership.”
Carolyn says she is hardwired to see the world from a systems point-of-view. With a background in research and simulation modelling in the criminal justice system, Carolyn brings a wealth of experience to her volunteer efforts. Whatever cause she embraces, she works hard to make her community a better place, fostering collaboration in bringing all parties to the table and then taking the work to the next level through a wise and inclusive approach.
Dr. Andrew Carson-Stevens (Cardiff University, Wales) describes Carolyn as a courageous, altruistic and gifted healthcare citizen-activist and leader. “Carolyn has worked effortlessly to educate herself in healthcare improvement, patient safety and leadership theory and methods in order to expertly share the learning from her husband’s untimely death to healthcare professionals, managers and executives, students, and patients and families worldwide,” says Dr. Carson-Stevens. “She does not dwell on the tragedy of her husband’s death, rather seeks with optimism and brings so much energy to inspire others to envision a safer and better way of delivering healthcare for every patient, every time.”
Carolyn is a member of the
Patients As Partners | Patient Voices Network (PasP|PVN), a community of patients, families, caregivers and others who are using their experiences to influence change in British Columbia’s healthcare system at the individual, community and system level. Through the
PasP|PVN, Carolyn was invited to join the Code Help project team to create a patient and family activated safety net that supplements the existing care structure. Patients and families who have a serious concern that is not being addressed by their care team can call a clinical resource nurse (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week) to initiate a Code Help. Currently, Code Help is available on all five inpatient medical units at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver and has earned Accreditation Canada recognition as a Leading Practice. In addition to the insight provided for the initiative, Carolyn has supported communication and knowledge translation of Code Help by co-creating and delivering poster presentations to national and international audiences.
Carolyn has led seminars and workshops to teach patient engagement for improving safety with health authorities and agencies in British Columbia and Ontario and has been a keynote speaker at safety-focussed conferences for students, researchers and clinicians across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.
“Carolyn is the perfect choice for this Award,” says Shannon Parsons (Providence Health Care). “This is a wonderful acknowledgement of her passion and the work she does every day on a volunteer basis. She is able to express herself in a way that touches the hearts and souls of many and is a strong advocate for patients and family involvement in healthcare.”
“Participation and activism in healthcare improvement is an act of citizenship,” says Carolyn Canfield. “To receive this award is a phenomenal honour. I look at this award as a platform for my ongoing activism, and I will continue to work hard to leverage patient engagement in healthcare improvement. Every door can open; you just need to open it a crack to let the patient voice in. If you give it a try, respectfully learn as much as you can, and look for opportunities, you can have an influence. Once you get going it is so obvious … I encourage others to just do it!”