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CPSI Share                                                    
Public; Provider; Leader
11/15/2017 5:00 PM

Are you prepared for surgery? Learn how to be informed, stay safe and take control of your health journey!

Patrick Nellis is the creator of a new, innovative surgical patient engagement program called Ready for My Surgery. His book, Ready for My Surgery: Be Informed, Stay Safe and Take Control During Your Journey Through Surgery, is being released November 2017.  

Why did you write this book?

It was a bit of a journey for me to come to the place where I realized there was a real need for this type of resource. For most of my clinical career, I worked as an anesthesia assistant at two large teaching hospitals in downtown Toronto. I was a member of a team providing anesthesia care to patients undergoing a wide variety of surgeries. During that time, I was also an educator, teaching healthcare professionals at the bedside and in the classroom.

I've also had the opportunity to travel extensively to hospitals across Canada. I had the privilege of spending weeks at a time in the operating rooms of these different hospitals and this gave me a wonderful opportunity to observe patient care across the country. These experiences allowed me to recognize that patients undergoing surgery remain largely unaware of what is happening to and around them and what their role is in their care.

Having recognized this, I felt quite driven to share what I know with patients in an attempt to help them have a better experience. I wanted to provide a resource for people from every walk of life that would reduce the common feelings of fear and anxiety that often go along with having surgery. There is no shortage of unknowns—from the operating room to the surgery itself, managing pain, and managing at home after the surgery. The goal with my book, Ready For My Surgery: Be Informed, Stay Safe and Take Control During Your Journey Through Surgery is to not only reduce anxiety, but to give patients the knowledge and tools to take control of their health and be better prepared to actively participate in their healthcare. The great thing is that there is mounting research to show that this has the potential to improve outcomes and significantly improve the patient experience.

Who will benefit from reading your book?

I wrote this book for patients and their families. It isn't simply about the surgery, which is just one part of their journey. It attempts to address all aspects of care including recovery, discharge, and home preparation. Patients often have anxiety about the surgery itself, but sometimes it's their recovery that can be the biggest challenge.

There are three core sections of the book—before surgery, the day of surgery, and recovery. Inside each chapter, there are insider tips, calls to action and patient stories. What ties it together is a comprehensive checklist, a practical tool to carry and use throughout the entire process. I think the importance of families and caregivers deserves equal attention—healthcare can be overwhelming and their roles should not be underestimated.

I believe the book can also help healthcare practitioners and students build empathy for patients by better understanding the patient journey. There are tools that they can share with patients. In fact, some of the tools are already in use by healthcare professionals that worked with me to review the book.  

How did you develop this book?

One of the things I realized early on when writing the book is that I needed to connect with the reader. I wanted to share a little bit of my story and give people the inside scoop on what to expect. My goal was for the book to feel like a personal conversation, rather than a clinical brochure.

I ended up writing the book twice—it turns out that writing a book isn't easy! The first round was really about getting my thoughts on paper. I then worked hard to find my voice as a writer and connect with the reader. The more I wrote, the more I realized how much there was to write about, and how much I needed to research.  I wanted this to be an engaging and useful book that would empower patients and help them take action.

I included some of the important work being done across the country, such as the "5 Questions to Ask About Your Medications" infographic produced by CPSI and others, infection control tips, and smoking cessation tools. Overall, the book is meant to be a tool to help build engagement and provide patients a greater sense of control.

What was your greatest learning when writing the book?

There came a point in time when I realised that while the book may be a good resource, it wasn't good enough on its own. I wanted to engage people much earlier in the process and explain why they needed to be involved in their healthcare. I wanted to walk them through all of the steps of their care, from the day their surgery is booked through their period of recovery. We know that teaching patients to be actively involved in their healthcare makes a difference; it can improve their outcome post-surgery and reduces their risk of re-admission. I've heard from many patients that it's also important not to inundate people with tons of information at one time, but instead share small bits of relevant information throughout their journey.

With this in mind, I expanded the scope of my project. I have a good understanding of the modern, digital tools available to support communication and content delivery so I used this to build what has become a surgical patient engagement program. The book is a major pillar of this program but it is just one part. It's personal, digital, accessible and inexpensive to deliver—I want to impact as many patients as possible so I worked hard to reduce barriers for people to access this information. The hub for this program is my new website:

For the most part people don't want to have surgery, but they want a good outcome. I found that I was not alone in feeling like we could take the patient experience and patient engagement to another level. Meaningful patient engagement is not a one-way street. What is important to patients should be important to their healthcare team, and vice versa. I see it as a step beyond patient-centred care. It isn't simply focusing on the patient, but instead involving the patient as a partner in their care.

The best analogy I've come up with is to consider the patient as a core member of their healthcare team. For example, it's not until the patient walks into the operating room on the day of surgery that the OR team is complete. In a team, when everyone understands and fulfills their role, the team will function at its best. Looking at it this way, it becomes clear just how important the role of the patient really is.

What is the best advice you received when writing the book?

Don't try to build something in isolation. With this in mind, I made a point of sharing the book early in the process even though it wasn't perfect. I found that the more people you reach out to and the more feedback you get early on, the better. I connected with anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists and nurses, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, and a number of patients, including some from Patients for Patient Safety Canada to read drafts of the book. I took all of that feedback to edit and refine the content. This was actually one of the most fun and validating aspects of this project, building new relationships with others that are also working hard to make the patient experience better. There is an important movement happening here.

Being patient and persistent is the other valuable piece of advice I received. It takes a lot of time to introduce a new idea and bring people to the place where its value is seen. The book alone took eight or nine drafts. It exciting to now have a beta version to share.

The Ready for My Surgery program is now ready for a pilot run. Once I've received further feedback from patients, healthcare providers and organizations such as CPSI and PFPSC, I'll move the book and program through final production. This has been fascinating journey for me and I'm looking forward to seeing the impact this program has on patients, their families and those that care for them.

Where can we learn more?

I'd be thrilled to chat with anyone interested in patient engagement or with those that think this program may be a fit for their patients or their institution. Feel free to visit my website at or email me at

Our thanks to Patrick Nellis for sharing a profile of his new book, Ready for my Surgery: Be Informed, Stay Safe and Take Control During Your Journey Through Surgery, which is currently in production. Join us next month to meet our next #SuperSHIFTer