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11/2/2016 4:00 AM

Congratulations to Adrienne Zarem and Alifa Kahn, members of the Family Leader Accreditation Group at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital who received honourable mention for the 2016 Volunteer Champion Award, for exemplifying the spirit of collaboration and engaging patients and families in patient safety.

When Accreditation Canada embedded specific and targeted client and family-centred care content into their standards, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital set out to not only meet the new standards, but to exceed them. In 2015, 14 family leaders were enlisted to form the Family Leader Accreditation Group (FLAG) and are now partnering with staff on each of the hospital's seven accreditation teams in preparation for the next accreditation survey, scheduled for the fall of 2017.

Adrienne Zarem and Alifa Khan are two of the family leaders who have taken on key leadership roles in the development of the FLAG structure. Adrienne chairs the Family Leader Accreditation Group. She started working as a Family Leader at Holland Bloorview about two years ago, shortly after her daughter was diagnosed with autism. "Initially, I simply wanted to make myself more useful, but once I experienced the tremendous work the hospital was doing, I knew that I wanted to give more back to the organization," says Adrienne. "Holland Bloorview is very innovative and forward-looking in their approach to family engagement. The Family Leaders involved in accreditation have been encouraged to challenge the institution when their lived experience has given them the opportunity to identify gaps in the system, or opportunities for the hospital to improve."

Adrienne's partnership, leadership and engagement have resulted in substantive improvements in the accreditation process. She assists other clinicians and family leaders in bridging difficult conversations and arriving at collaborative solutions to advance quality and safety processes. Adrienne has been an advocate for ensuring that the voices of family leaders are heard and incorporated into action plans.

Sitting in the waiting room with her son who has special needs, Alifa saw a sign asking for family volunteers, but didn't think much about it at the time. After a couple of visits to the hospital, she thought, 'this is an amazing place that feels really special, I want to be part of it'. She became a family leader at Holland Bloorview three years ago. "I wanted to be a good example for my son," says Alifa. "By empowering myself, I can empower him and he can learn from that. The FLAG has such strong collaboration and authentic partnerships with everyone around the table. I want to carry that same message forward and empower the caregivers, youth and children at Holland Bloorview."

When the Family Leaders discussed options for patient safety training that would give them a strong foundation to support the accreditation process, Alifa knew instantly that she wanted to take on that task. She has made a significant contribution to revising the Patient Safety Education Program - Canada (PSEP – Canada) modules to resonate with family leaders and provide them with fundamental knowledge to participate more fully in the accreditation journey and beyond. She was an integral working group member in revising and reframing the content of each of the individual PSEP – Canada modules, to ensure the perspective of the patient and family was at the core.

The creation of a modified PSEP – Canada certification program will enable the training of more than 200 parents, youth and children who volunteer to advance quality and safety in paediatric rehabilitation at Holland Bloorview. A multi-year strategy is being develop that will get everyone on the same page, speaking the same language with a commonality and understanding of patient safety.

Sonia Pagura, Senior Director, Quality, Safety and Performance (on behalf of Holland Bloorview) nominated Adrienne and Alifa for the 2016 Volunteer Champion Award. "Adrienne and Alifa are committed to expanding patient safety knowledge beyond just being involved in accreditation, building capacity within our clients and families and have taken on a sector-leading role of improving quality and safety in hospitals," says Sonia. "Their advice and partnership will be the foundation that other organizations, sectors, health systems can model to create an innovative method of authentically engaging patients and families in their quality of care journey."

HealthCareCAN and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute have partnered to present the Patient Safety Champion Awards to recognize champions of patient safety - volunteer patient or family members and teams or organizations who demonstrate exemplary leadership and collaboration to champion change and achieve safer care through patient/family engagement. The Volunteer Champion Award salutes patient/family volunteers who, through commendable dedication and service, contribute to a project or initiative that result in identifiable improvement in patient safety outcomes.