What is a Patient Family Advisory Council?

As healthcare continues to move towards patient- and family-centered care, it is important for healthcare providers to listen and act on what the patient and their family members have to say about their care, its delivery and its design.  Every patient and their family wants to feel their concerns are addressed and their voices are being heard.

“The four key elements of patient- family- centered care are respect and dignity, sharing information, participation and collaboration,” says Denise Harris R.N., vice president and chief nursing officer at West Kendall Baptist Hospital. “A meaningful way to bring these elements into practice is the work of a Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC), where former patients and family members work together to bring the voice of the patient into the organization, impacting care in a very proactive way.”

“Today’s patients want to be engaged in decisions that affect their well-being, and research has shown that healthcare organizations that partner with patients and their families achieve better clinical, quality and safety outcomes,” says Ms. Harris.

Because there are PFACs at each Baptist Health facility, there are many opportunities for patients and families to participate as advisors.  Additionally, an advisor from each facility sits on the Baptist Health Patient- and Family-Centered Care Steering Council (PFCC) to ensure the best ideas are spread across the entire organization.

One very active PFAC is the one at the Baptist Health Breast Center.  The Council meets quarterly, and in the two-and-one-half years since its inception, they have accomplished much to benefit breast cancer patients as they travel through their breast cancer journey.  In the past year, its members have played an even greater role, as they work together with Baptist Health on the development of the new Miami Cancer Institute, scheduled to break ground in July and open in 2016.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society and more than 600 women and men will be diagnosed with breast cancer at the Breast Center annually. There are 12 members, all of whom are breast cancer survivors, on the Baptist Health Breast Center PFAC.  Each one has her own reason for participating, but the one central theme is to play-it-forward and make sure that someone else’s journey is easier.

“I had several requests to get involved, and after meeting with the start-up folks, I realized how important it is to give feedback,” says Breast Center PFAC member Carol Williamson. “Baptist is the hospital that hits all high marks, and I wanted to be helpful in making sure the Breast Center is number one in the area, too.  It is a pleasure to be able to voice opinions to such a dedicated staff. They make me feel as though we can make a difference, and we are not wasting our time.”

“Serving on the PFAC is my way of ensuring that all patients are afforded every opportunity to make their journey through cancer less daunting,” echoes Miriam Williams.

Carmen Kuznik says she joined the committee to be a voice for the future of cancer care at Baptist Hospital.

And Natalia Granado-Esteban says having gone through cancer at the age of 34, I wanted to contribute my experiences as a young mom and cancer survivor to the Council.  My doctors and nurses were top-notch and being a part of this group is my way of thanking them for everything they did to save my life.

One visible result of the Breast Center’s PFAC collaboration is a journey bag. The journey bag is filled with items needed by newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients to make them more comfortable.  Created by two PFAC members, Sylvia Gordon and Dawn Sepe, each bag is individualized to meet the patients’ personal needs.  Among some of the items included in the bag are a pillow to be put under the arm after a lumpectomy or mastectomy, a journal, a shawl and a special bra with pockets that can hold the drains that are left to collect fluid after surgery. Items are added to the bag as the journey continues and the patients’ needs change. Patients love receiving the bag and have said that everything in it is very valuable.  PFAC members know from experience what it takes to heal.

If you are interested in joining one of Baptist Health’s PFAC committees, contact Traci Virelli, the director of Patient and Family Experience at 786-527-9036 or at or Geri Schimmel, R.N., director of the Patient Safety Partnership, at 786-596-1342 or at

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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