Meet the Professional: What Does a Patient and Family Advisor Do?

July 2, 2018

Premature baby boy in Intensive Care Unit at hospital, NICU, parent advisor, patient family advisor

Oftentimes when families are discharged from the NICU, a part of their healing process includes a strong desire to give back to the NICU, their healthcare team and the hospital where they received care. More and more hospitals across the country are embracing former patients and families to create partnerships to collaborate and improve the quality and safety of care, similar to the partnerships Hand to Hold has with St. David’s Medical Center, St. David’s North Austin Medical Center and Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

We talked to Crystal Duffy, a Parent and Family Advisor at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, to find out more about what she does and how it impacts families.

What is your title and what was your program of study?

I’m the Co-Chair of the Parent Advisory Council in the NICU at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

What sort of licensing and certification do practitioners in your field go through?  What professional associations are you a member of?

To become a Parent Advisor, you must be a graduate NICU parent, be at least one-year post discharge from the hospital, and complete the RPI Yellow belt training. Our national professional associations are the Institute for Patient and Family-Centered Care and the Vermont Oxford Network.

What Does a Parent Advisor Do?

The planning, delivery and evaluation of healthcare is grounded in a mutually beneficial partnership between healthcare providers, patients and families. Patient and family centered practitioners recognize the vital role that families play in ensuring the health and well being of patients in the hospital. Who would better understand the patients’ needs than a former patient?

A Parent Advisor can:

  • Review literature
  • Give presentations to residents, nurses and other clinicians
  • Attend safety symposiums, health care fairs and conferences
  • Sit in on committee meetings, quality council meetings and special project meetings
  • Provide insight, give feedback and guide quality improvement projects
  • Acquire feedback from other graduate NICU families through surveys and phone calls
  • Provide peer-to-peer support for NICU families

When would you visit a family in the NICU?

Our Parent Advisors are all certified and trained volunteers through the hospital and may go into the unit and provide support and encouragement to families in the NICU anytime.

What roles do the parents need to play in the NICU?

We encourage all parents to speak up, ask questions and to take an active participation in their baby’s care. In the NICU parents can:

  • Participate in the diagnosis
  • Engage and share in the decision making process
  • Follow along the treatment plan
  • Partner with their healthcare team to create a culture of safety
  • Improve the experience of care for their baby

What resources would you recommend for parents who want to find out more about your field?

I recommend visiting the Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care and reading Privileged Presence: Personal Stories of Connections in Health Care by Liz Crocker and Bev Johnson.

Crystal Duffy headshot, meet the professional, parent advisor, NICU peer supportAbout Crystal Duffy

Crystal Olguín Duffy is a teacher, writer, motivational speaker and mother to three little girls including a set of twins. Her essays on parenting have appeared in Scary Mommy, BluntMoms, Mamapedia and Twins Magazine, and she is a contributing writer for Twiniversity an online support network for twin parents. Her twin pregnancy story was recently featured in Woman’s World Magazine. She is excited to publish her first book, Twin to Twin, in the fall of 2018. Follow Crystal on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Crystal lives in Houston with her family. She loves to travel, read and considers herself a pop culture vulture.