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Listen to Your Parents: Parent Advisory Council Benefits Inova Children’s Hospital

Jamie Gentille is the director of Child Life Services at Inova Children’s Hospital. She leads a team of specialists who support children and families through surgery, outpatient procedures, or hospital stays, through activities including pre-surgical tours and preparation, medical and therapeutic play and support during medical procedures.

 

Inova Children’s Hospital is staffed with experts of all kinds. But even the most knowledgeable specialists can’t know everything about your unique child.

We recognize that parents are the authorities on their children, and they’re also an essential part of the treatment team. That’s why Inova Children’s Hospital maintains a Parent Advisory Council. We tap into parent expertise to improve the quality, safety and experience of our care.

Experience and Advice

The Parent Advisory Council began 10 years ago. The council, which meets once a month, includes about 15 parents whose children have been treated at Inova Children’s Hospital.

When we recruit parents for this volunteer position, we’re not just looking for cheerleaders. We include parents who share both positive and negative experiences. After all, we want them to be honest and offer specific examples of what we can improve to make hospital stays more comfortable for our young patients and their families.

Over the years, the council’s input has led Inova Children’s Hospital to make specific improvements. For instance, parents suggested that it would be helpful to put safes in hospital rooms so that families have somewhere secure to store valuables during the child’s hospital stay. That’s a small improvement that makes things a lot easier for families.

Recently, council members suggested giving families a care binder so that parents have one handy place to store their child’s medical information, prescription lists and appointment history. Families will be able to bring the binder to appointments to have all the information they need at their fingertips, and can easily download new blank forms as needed. This will be especially useful for patients with complex diagnoses, but can help any of our patient families stay organized.

Improving Communication

The council has also helped us improve communication between doctors, nurses and parents. When you have various specialists and nurses coming and going, they might not all cross paths at the same time. Parents can feel like they’re getting information piecemeal from each healthcare provider. Our parent advisors have shared ideas for improving communication and making healthcare conversations easier for parents to understand.

Advisory council members also participate on a panel for new medical residents every year. They share stories and experiences, helping residents better understand how to talk to families, including how to deliver bad news, and how to answer parents’ questions with sensitivity.

Our parents really are our partners, and we at Inova Children’s Hospital are so thankful that they volunteer their time to help us be the best we can be. To learn more about the Parent Advisory Council or how to get involved, contact Child Life Services at 703-776-6486.

 

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