The Importance of Patient Family Liaisons

By Bridget Burling

Patient Family Liaisons are helping patients feel connected to their loved ones virtually. With the current restrictions in place that prevent visitors, it can be very challenging for all parties involved — Patient Family Liaisons help with this discrepancy by coordinating the communication between patients and their loved ones. Chandy Skariah and Patrick Palmer started their roles at Humber River Hospital in the emergency department in March. Their positions entail checking in on patients and asking them who they would like to contact. From there, they suggest a channel and set up the program with all of the parties involved. Since they have started, they have been able to connect numerous patients with their loved ones. Chandy and Patrick are noticeably passionate about their roles and have shared some of their moving stories.

Patrick: Twenty Member Zoom Call

When asked about memorable stories, Patrick said, “there are many stories, since we work in the emergency department, there is one almost every day.” Patrick recalled a situation with a COVID-19 positive woman. Even though he knew her diagnosis, he still bravely went into her room to see if he could connect her with any family or friends. To his surprise, the woman started listing close to twenty people. Patrick told all of her loved ones about Zoom, where they would be able to video call at the same time. He set up the Zoom call, and all twenty of her loved ones were able to see her. The patient was thankful to talk to everyone and appreciative of Patrick for allowing this interaction to happen.

Patrick: Improving Patient’s Morale 

Patrick recalls when a man entered the emergency room in a noticeably upset mood. He was understandably irritated about the situation that he was in and having to be by himself because of visitor restrictions. Patrick was able to help the man by offering to set up a phone call with his partner. The man’s demeanour changed once the phone call was over, and he became relaxed and happy. The man was so thankful for the opportunity that Patrick gave him to connect with his partner that he offered him a “bottle of Cognac, which [he] appreciated but respectfully declined.”

Chandy: Virtual Prayers for Grandpa

Chandy shared a heartwarming story about an older gentleman who was COVID-19 positive, and previous to his diagnosis, he was in a long-term care home. Since he was in “long-term care, he was not able to see any family or friends for over five weeks because of visitor restrictions.” When he received his diagnosis, due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, Chandy knew that it was essential to connect him to his family as soon as possible. Chandy was able to connect the family members through a video call. They were able to “pray with him during his final moments.”

Chandy: Substitute Caretakers

Chandy also mentioned that because of visitor restrictions, the Patient Family Liaisons have to act as “substitute caretakers.” For example, it is sometimes difficult for patients with dementia to understand why they are in the hospital. Their role is to remind these patients about their current situation and why it is necessary for procedures such as surgery.

Patient Family Liaisons such as Chandy and Patrick, enhance patients’ experiences at Humber River Hospital in the emergency department. They are compassionate individuals who are putting their lives at risk for patients to stay connected to their loved ones.

[Pictured: Patrick Palmer and Chandy Skariah]