By Stacey Bukuras, patient/family representative, Patient and Family Relations

The Patient and Family Advisory Team

The Patient and Family Advisory Team

Since 2008, Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Patient and Family Advisory Councils (PFAC) have been working to create an environment that fosters patient- and family-centered care across the entire institution.

The Patient Family Advisory Steering Committee is co-chaired by Stanley Ashley, MD, chief medical officer, Jackie Somerville, PhD, RN, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of Patient Care Services and Martie Carnie, senior patient advisor. Under their leadership, 17 councils comprised of 95 patient and family advisors serve various inpatient and ambulatory populations, using their experiences as patients or family members to ensure that their voices help to inform the relationship between patients, families and staff.

Most of the councils are geared toward a specific line of service, such as cardiology or neurology. However, the Women’s Empowerment Council is an example of an enrichment effort targeted toward a specific patient population. Likewise, the LGBT council — one of four councils in development — will support our LGBT patients across all departments when it launches later this year.

While the foundation of patient- and family-centered care was established at BWH in 1998 with the creation of inpatient care improvement teams, PFAC has recently blossomed under the leadership of Maureen Fagan, DNP, WHNP-BC, MHA, executive director of the Center for Patients and Families and associate chief nurse for the Connors Center for Women and Newborns-OB/GYN. In 2010, Fagan identified an opportunity to create councils for individual service lines.

“Over the years, we have created our own unique framework for establishing these councils,” said Celene Wong, MHA, senior project manager of the Center for Patients and Families. “This is beneficial to patients and staff because we are able to create councils that meet everyone’s needs.”

According to Fagan, the councils start organically from the requests of service line leadership. They are often born of the patient narratives that are shared with representatives of the Patient/Family Relations Department, a program within the Center for Patients and Families.

“Patients who demonstrate an ability to see beyond their own experience and use their feedback and wisdom constructively are invited to apply for an advisory role,” said Fagan.

Councils meet 10 times a year. Meetings follow a robust agenda, but the conversation that takes place is warm and familiar.

“Many staff members tell us how much they look forward to meeting with their advisory councils,” said Fagan. “The supportive environment is empowering and restorative to all who participate.”

Jenifer Walsh, a patient/family advisor, echoed this sentiment: “It is such a good feeling to know that as a council our input and ideas are so well-received.  This attitude creates a wonderful give-and-take between us and the hospital staff.”

PFAC’s ultimate goal is to convene a diverse group of patient voices that can collaborate successfully in the spirit of improving the patient experience.

As Carnie often reminds council members: “You can’t control a patient’s health outcome, but you can control their overall experience. And we try to make it as positive as possible.”

For more information on PFAC, please visit