How Passionate Patients Can Get Involved in their Community’s Health Care

October 30, 2014

PHILADELPHIA, PA (October 30, 2014)—Have you ever wondered how you can make a difference in health care? And not just your health care, but the care of others, too? What better time to gain knowledge about what you can do than during Patient-Centered Care Awareness Month and who better to learn from than Beth Chernoff – a breast cancer survivor and patient advocate.  

Chernoff entered the world of health care as many do – as a patient. She was diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer during 2010 at age 53. She went to Fox Chase Cancer Center for her care and treatment, and had, and continues to have, nothing but positive things to say about her physicians, and the great work they did ridding her of the disease.

However, it was the nurses at Fox Chase Cancer Center who left Chernoff awestruck after her health care journey. A librarian by profession, she is in the process of earning a certificate in health information management because of the nurses who inspired her.

“The people who cared for me are my role models, especially the nurses,” said Chernoff. “They know so much and are willing to answer any questions; I am in awe of nurses and how much knowledge they have.”

Nurses guided her down the path to patient advocacy and patient and family engagement work. But what is a patient advocate? For Chernoff, being a patient advocate is having the opportunity to work with an inspired, motivated team, made up of people with a variety of backgrounds and personalities, as part of a patient and family advisory council (PFAC).  PFACs offer a forum for discussion, opinion-sharing, and change. For these reasons, Chernoff is involved with the Fox Chase Cancer Center’s PFAC, and also is a patient representative on The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania’s (HAP) Pennsylvania Engagement Network’s (PA-HEN) Patient and Family Engagement Advisory Council. “Many patients become advocates because something negative happened during their care and they want to create change,” said Chernoff. “That viewpoint is very important—but I’m doing this because I care about the hospital that took great care of me, and also I understand the kind of patient that comes here for help.” The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) says more voices need to be heard—not just during October, but year-round. Patient- and family-centered care is important for everyone involved in the health care system for several reasons. First, a satisfying patient experience leads to better outcomes; fewer unhealthy behaviors and greater compliance with treatment. Next, family members who are involved in their loved one’s care may become advocates; provide a support system and/or enhance the patient’s comfort, security, and safety. Finally, health care professionals and hospital staff who are empowered to personalize the patient experience report greater workplace satisfaction, improved staff relationships and a more cohesive working environment. Chernoff knows first-hand the importance of this work. “We [members of PFAC] have actually seen some of the real changes happen that we set out to make,” she said. “We want to make sure all patients understand that their voice is of prime concern, and it’s heard.” For more information about Patient-Centered Care Awareness Month, visit HAP’s website, and contact HAP’s Mary Marshall or Janette Bisbee to become a patient advocate at your local hospital or on HAP’s PA-HEN Patient and Family Engagement Advisory Council. 

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.


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