Nova Scotia Health recruiting ‘Patient Family Advisors.’ But what is their role?

Click to play video: 'NSHA calling for people to join patient family advising council'
NSHA calling for people to join patient family advising council
WATCH: Nova Scotia Health is putting out a call for people to advocate to the health authority on behalf of patients and caregivers. Volunteers across the province can join the ‘patient family public advisory council.’ But what is their role, and how effective is the group? Callum Smith explains – Sep 16, 2022

Nova Scotia Health put out a call for volunteers Thursday to join its “Patient, Family & Public Advisory Council,” and has made the process to join easier.

A “Patient Family Advisor” (PFA) is someone who has experience with the health system — as a patient or caregiver — and advocates for health-related policies.

Juanna Ricketts is a PFA and chairs the advisory council. Her mother Sheila fell and broke her hip in 2020, but due to COVID visitor restrictions, her family couldn’t visit her in the hospital during her rehab stint.

“You know what it was like for me not to see her — and for her not to see us? Her children, her sisters,” she explains. “There’s nothing worse to being in the hospital and being alone.”

That’s where she used her role, to speak up and voice concerns.

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“They made the changes, they heard our voices,” Ricketts says. “They said ‘OK, we’ll allow for two designated people.'”

The council has a key role to play in its advocacy, says Nova Scotia Health’s Patient Experience lead.

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“We don’t know everything, so we needed to look beyond and get a different perspective,” explains Debbie LeLievre, who is also the eastern zone’s director of quality improvement and safety. “And that’s where we include patients and families.”

The council was established in 2016. There are currently 154 volunteers, or PFAs.

But the council itself, which is made up of 12 volunteers, has six vacancies that opened across the province within the past year that they’re looking to fill. Nova Scotia Health launched a toll-free number Thursday and shared an email to find out more information: 1-833-732-5646 (1-833-PFA-JOIN) or email

LeLievre says the vacancies don’t mean there won’t be representation.

“I’m not worried,” she says. “We’ve had those seats filled previously. We’ve also had folks that have come forward saying that they were interested.”

“PFAs sit on redevelopment projects, quality teams and advisory councils in a wide range of care areas,” the news release states.

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“We want to have everybody’s voice included in this in Nova Scotia,” says LeLievre.

“Please, please consider making the change for our hospitals,” Ricketts pleads. “If not for you, but for our generation that’s coming up behind us.”

The council meets monthly to discuss health-care issues and policies.

“They come with, you know, maybe a new plan, a new way to do this procedure, that procedure, and we listen to what they have to say,” Ricketts says. “We offer our lived experience because it’s great to have the information there on paper because it’s academic — and it’s needed and it’s required — but also they need the lived experience.”

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