Honorary lecturer Carolyn Canfield Named Patient Safety Champion

Canfield’s efforts on behalf of patient safety and quality improvement began after the death of her husband in 2008 from failures in care, eight days after successful surgery.

“Carolyn steadfastly focuses her efforts at collaborative system reform and support for, rather than persecution of, healthcare providers,” says Joanne Archer, Education and Practice Coordinator for Provincial Infection Control Network of B.C., part of the Provincial Health Services Authority. “Carolyn’s translation of a tragic loss and failed accountability into a passion for patient safety and voluntary career committed to collaboration speaks profoundly of her innate leadership.”

Canfield brings her background in research and simulation modelling in the criminal justice system to her patient safety advocacy. Canfield is a member of the Patients As Partners/Patient Voices Network, a community of patients, families, caregivers and others who are using their experiences to influence change in British Columbia’s healthcare system at the individual, community and system level.

Through the network, Carolyn was invited to join the Code Help project team to create a patient and family activated safety net that supplements the existing care structure. Patients and families who have a serious concern that is not being addressed by their care team can call a clinical resource nurse (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week) to initiate a Code Help. Currently, Code Help is available on all five inpatient medical units at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver and has earned Accreditation Canada recognition as a Leading Practice. In addition to the insight provided for the initiative, Carolyn has supported communication and knowledge translation of Code Help by co-creating and delivering poster presentations to national and international audiences.

Canfield has led seminars and workshops to teach patient engagement for improving safety with health authorities and agencies in British Columbia and Ontario and has been a keynote speaker at safety-focussed conferences for students, researchers and clinicians across Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.

“Participation and activism in healthcare improvement is an act of citizenship,” Canfield says. “To receive this award is a phenomenal honour. I look at this award as a platform for my ongoing activism, and I will continue to work hard to leverage patient engagement in healthcare improvement. Every door can open; you just need to open it a crack to let the patient voice in. If you give it a try, respectfully learn as much as you can, and look for opportunities, you can have an influence. Once you get going it is so obvious … I encourage others to just do it!”

“Carolyn is the perfect choice for this Award,” says Shannon Parsons, a nurse with Providence Health Care. “This is a wonderful acknowledgement of her passion and the work she does every day on a volunteer basis. She is able to express herself in a way that touches the hearts and souls of many and is a strong advocate for patients and family involvement in healthcare.”