Samantha Kennedy – outgoing Patient Advisory Council (“Pack”) Co-Chair – is heading off to medical school in the Fall. In an inspirational message to Community Conference attendees – and indeed the whole ImproveCareNow Community – she thanks everyone for working within ImproveCareNow and for believing we can make a difference together. And she reminds us that our work (with patients specifically, and in general) may not be easy or quick or tidy, but ‘it is the future, and we need to be the same sort of brave you ask patients to be as we pave that road.’
Sami’s words are inspiration on-tap. Enjoy!
Yes, I will be a student at Cooper Medical School in the fall. Yes, Jennie and I are transitioning the Patient Advisory Council into the hands of wiser, brighter, and as it so happens, younger colleagues. Yet, this is not a goodbye. I have little doubt you will agree: once you are a part of ImproveCareNow, you are always part of ImproveCareNow. As I enter medical school, I question how I can best serve as both a patient advocate and a medical student. I know only this for certain: I cannot imagine practicing in a system without ImproveCareNow and similar networks I hope will be just as successful for other conditions. We are not only creating health for kids with inflammatory bowel diseases; this is making the whole system healthier.
By name, we are a curriculum. We are a learning health network, a network – learning – together. I think it is easy to forget what that means – that we’re all students. If I have been brought up through the education system correctly, as I hope I have as a soon-to-be-graduating senior, being a student is not about getting everything right every time. Students try. Students revise. Students experience. Students have open and engaged minds that recognize success not as a thing but as a method. We are students. We are a learning health network.
When I first started co-chairing the PAC, I really strongly believed we needed to build a model framework for the engagement of patients in a learning health network. Jennie and I took the PAC and restructured it into task forces. We are distributing leadership. We are increasing intra-PAC participation. We are concentrating our resources on developing sustainable task forces, on developing leaders. We are increasing our collaboration with your care centers throughout the network, finding ways we can help each other. We are trying to foster and amplify the voices of not only PAC members, but patients throughout the network. We are establishing a project management structure. We are clarifying guidelines for what active membership means. We are piloting a recruitment program. We are PDSA-ing what ideal patient engagement here at Community Conferences should resemble.
I do not like how those sentences begin. “We are” as a phrase signifies something that is ongoing, not something that is done. As students, researchers, and leaders, we like progress and conclusions. It can feel to me that some of the work we are engaging in is continuing indefinitely.
In our case, however, “we are” is a phrase of success. We are lasting. We are continuing. We are making changes, which lead to other changes, hence prompting more changes.
We are changing the paradigm. In 2013, the Patient Advisory Council was a Facebook group. Today, we are present on multiple network-wide communication platforms and building a presence within care centers. In 2013, we were trying to fit into interventions, to carve out corners and spaces and places we could fit. Today, we are co-creating our own innovations; you are allowing us to co-create yours because you see the value in that. We are challenging the paradigm of how patients and clinicians should interact. In 2013, patients and parents were a minority here. Today, we are here in force. We are fifteen patients. Fifty percent of the PAC is here this weekend. That has never happened before. In 2013, we were acquaintances, colleagues. Today, I call many of you friends and mentors – we talk about mentoring so often here just in the peer-to-peer patient sense, and that is a huge deal, but we are a community of mentors. I don’t know if we recognize that explicitly enough. We are learning in a network, we are learning not only from each other but with each other.
Very rarely will our work end with a hard stop, but that would be the wrong measure by which to judge ourselves and our success. A hard stop would only indicate failure, that we have stopped approaching barriers creatively and stopped challenging ourselves, so that we can go no further. To be a learning health network, I believe we are held to the same standards as all ideal students. We try and we do not give up, even when we want to, even when our work feels tedious, even when we feel as if we are is not enough, even when we feel as if we are achieving little. If we measure ourselves by growth and not an endpoint, we see ourselves as a community in a clearer light.
We are ImproveCareNow. I am ImproveCareNow, and I am really enthusiastically proud of that. I cannot wait to carry that to Cooper with me and beyond and see where it takes all of us. Thank you for working within ImproveCareNow, and for believing that we make a difference together. Please go home and believe in your own patients and believe they can help you go further. It may not be easy or quick or tidy – like some of us really like – but it is the future, and we need to be the same sort of brave you ask patients to be as we pave that road.
If we stop believing patients and families matter in care, our magic as a collaborative will be lost. We celebrate our successes not because failures do not happen, but because when we keep trying and trying and trying, we succeed. It may feel like magic, but it is we are just people – believing –together.