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11/2/2016 7:00 AM

Congratulations to Charles Pharand, a volunteer ambassador at Bruyère Continuing Care's Saint-Vincent Hospital, who received honourable mention for the 2016 Volunteer Champion Award, recognizing his outstanding contributions in providing a safe and caring welcome to patients and families.

Saint-Vincent Hospital is a 336-bed facility and is the sole provider of complex continuing care in Ottawa, Ontario. The specialized program is intended for medically complex patients who require a hospital stay, regular on-site physician/nursing care and assessment, and active care management with specialized staff. The program aims to improve and maintain function for patients with complex care needs by providing them with required services and support to transition back to the community, when possible.

Of the more than 200 volunteer at Saint-Vincent Hospital, one who stands out from the crowd is octogenarian Charles Pharand. Mr. Pharand plays a vital role in providing a positive experience for patients and families at Bruyère Continuing Care. Over the past year, he has spent more than 950 hours of his time engaging with patients and families during the admission process and throughout their stay. Mr. Pharand wears many hats in overseeing the ambassador program, answering phones in the volunteer office, helping with special events, getting patients to mass, making a friendly visit to say hello or marking a milestone by singing happy birthday to a patient.

A former consultant, Mr. Pharand always gave money to charity. When he retired, he no longer had the disposable income to support the causes he was passionate about. His wife encouraged him to give of his time in lieu of that financial support. Bruyère Continuing Care is a two-block walk from his home and for the past six years, Mr. Pharand has made the short trek five days a week to help out. Typically, he mans the phone in the volunteer office on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; does patient visits and tours on Wednesday; and helps patients get to the chapel for mass on Sunday.

"I am a simple man and what I am doing is providing a simple service," says volunteer extraordinaire, Charles Pharand. "I am in great shape and will be here as long as I can walk, talk and have my mind. I enjoy the patients and everything I do is done with a smile. It is very rewarding to see that our services are so appreciated."

The volunteer ambassadors play a vital role at the hospital, ensuring that patients and families feel welcomed and cared for. The ambassador orients the patient and family by reviewing the admission package with them, answering questions related to the hospital's non-medical services, introducing them to the Therapeutic Support Services program available to them during their stay and offering a tour of key areas of the unit and hospital. Any questions patients and families have related to specific care services are communicated to the clinical manager for follow-up.

Heidi Duhaime, the volunteer coordinator at Saint-Vincent Hospital nominated Mr. Pharand for the 2016 Patient Safety Champion Award. "More than 350 patients have been welcomed to Saint-Vincent Hospital since the volunteer ambassador program started and many continue to benefit from this innovative program," she says. "The volunteer ambassador program has been recognized by Accreditation Canada as a leading practice of excellence and has proven to be an effective and sustainable program that emphasizes a patient-centred approach. Mr. Pharand is an exceptional volunteer who consistently contributes to improving the overall success of the program and growing our team of volunteer ambassadors."

The ambassador program has expanded beyond Saint-Vincent Hospital. In addition to being offered on each unit, a modified program has been implemented on the palliative care unit at the Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital in order to meet the specific needs of that patient population.

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.