Patient & Family Advisory Council Program

Patients, families and care providers working as a team to fight cancer

The Adventist Health and Rideout along with the Adventist Health and Rideout Cancer Center established the Patient & Advisory Council Program in 2014 as an initiative to engage patients and families as partners with their health care providers. Including patients in the design and implementation of initiatives to improve patient care has given new meaning to patient-centered care.


The Patient and Family Advisory Council Program is dedicated to strengthening collaboration between patients and family members and the health care team to enhance the Cancer Center’s ability to deliver the highest standard of safe, comprehensive and compassionate health care.


The Patient and Family Advisory Council will serve as the “voice” for patients who have received cancer treatment at the Adventist Health and Rideout Cancer Center and their family members.


The purpose of the Patient and Family Advisory Council is to achieve the following objectives:

  • Strengthen communication and collaboration among patients, families, caregivers and the cancer center staff.
  • Bring the patient /family perspective to hospital operations.
  • Improve patient safety, quality and delivery of care.
  • Provide feedback about the needs and experiences of patients and families.
  • Serve as a resource on a wide variety of issues, services and policies.
  • Provide insight about how to humanize the cancer experience.
  • Provide patient and family insight into the planning for new services, programs, facilities and facility renovations.
  • Members will be able to share their unique experiences and help us make a difference in the lives of other patients and their families.
  • Develop community awareness of the Patient & Family Advisory Council through engaging the community.


At the Adventist Health and Rideout Cancer Center, patients and their families are recognized as valued members of our health care team who have important perspectives, feedback and solutions to share. The philosophy of patient and family centered care is central to our services at Adventist Health and Rideout. As such, we are committed to strengthening partnerships with patients and families, and our advisors are vital to this endeavor.

Benefits for patients include:

  • Becoming more aware and better educated on the subject
  • Gaining a better understanding of the health care system, including their organization
  • Appreciating being part of the program, listened to, and having their opinions valued
  • Becoming advocates for the organization
  • Understanding how to be an active participant in their own health care
  • Recognizing that collaboration with their providers through patient centered care leads to better self-management of cancer care
  • Learning to be advocates for their family and friends

Benefits for health care organizations include:

  • Learning what the priority concerns are for patients, which may not be what the organization selects
  • Hearing directly from their customers, the patients
  • Transforming their culture toward patient-centered care
  • Developing programs and policies that are relevant to their patients’ needs
  • Improving consumer satisfaction, which leads to stronger patient loyalty
  • Strengthening community relations

Benefits for providers include:

  • Becoming more aware of the patient’s perspective
  • Learning to provide care from a patient-centered approach
  • Recognizing the role of caregivers, such as family and friends
  • Appreciating barriers and opportunities for patients that were previously not understood
  • Identifying system issues that need to be addressed to provide patient-centered care
  • Receiving higher satisfaction ratings by their patients as they collaborate in a patient-centered care model


Membership in the Patient and Family Advisory Council is determined by the Adventist Health and Rideout. Members of the council will work alongside doctors, nurses, executive leadership and other healthcare providers to ensure the highest level of care is delivered. The council should be kept to 20 total members. This size allows for diverse representation but is small enough for effective communication and consensus development.

At least half of the council’s members should be patients. This allows for equal representation of patient and provider perspective. Patients feel more comfortable sharing when there are other patients present and when they are not outnumbered by providers. To create a diverse patient membership for the council, consider patients’ ages, genders, medical conditions and cultural or racial backgrounds.

Healthcare providers and community members comprise the remaining membership of the council. Representatives from the following groups may be considered:

  • Caregivers who provide primary assistance to patients in their homes
  • Physicians, including primary care providers and consultants
  • Nurses, Medical Assistants, Radiation Therapists, Patient Navigators and Social Workers
  • Pharmacists
  • Ancillary service staff, including insurance benefits specialists

The membership requirements of the council will be to meet at least every other month and a one-year commitment to the council. Council members may be asked to participate in activities, such as education workshops and community outreach.

Selection of members

Potential members will fill out an application. Selection criteria to consider:

  • Able to listen to differing opinions and share different points of view
  • Positive and supportive of the mission of the hospital
  • Share insights and information about their experiences in ways that others can learn from them
  • See beyond their own personal experiences
  • Show concern for more than one issue or agenda
  • Respect the perspectives of others
  • Speak comfortably in a group with candor
  • Interact well with many kinds of people
  • Work in partnership with others
  • A phone interview will be conducted and selected members will be invited to join the Council by receiving an acceptance letter in the mail.

Orientation of Advisory Council Members

Because of the sensitivity of both patients and providers in participating in the council meetings, all members should receive orientation. Advisory council specific orientation includes;

  • Participant introductions
  • The hospital’s history, mission and values
  • Overview of facilities and services
  • Brief presentations by administrators or other key persons
  • Brief presentation by patient or family leaders who have served as council members or in other advisory roles
  • The role of the Council
  • Roles and responsibilities of officers, staff liaison, family members and staff members
  • Overview of a typical meeting structure – minutes, committee reports, typical agenda
  • Review of meeting ground rules
  • Confidentiality statement signature
  • Practical details – where to park, what to wear, what to bring to meetings
  • Attendance expectations

Meeting logistics

The meeting for the Patient and Family Advisory Council will take place at the Adventist Health and Rideout Cancer Center Library for Life. At the first council meeting the members will determine the time, length and frequency of future meetings. Depending on the time of the meetings, lunch or dinner will be provided by the Cancer Center.

Meeting ground rules

To set the tone for the meeting and ensure all participants are comfortable, the meeting ground rules for Patient Advisory Council meetings are the following:

  • Members to sign in
  • Meetings will start and end on time
  • Everyone participates. Every member’s opinion is valuable
  • Maintain confidentiality at the meeting and outside the meeting
  • Avoid sidebar conversations.
  • Focus on the meeting and avoid non-emergency interruptions (No cell phones, please)
  • Voice your concerns at the meeting
  • Decisions will be criteria-based, and the council will strive for consensus
  • All members will support the decisions outside the meeting
  • All assignments will be completed on time
  • Members will think of the big picture

Council Lead

The Council Lead is the coach of the team. He or she develops the council concept, acquire the necessary funding and organizational support, selects the council coordinator, and manages the operations of the council.

Key characteristics for a Council Lead include:

  • A leadership position in the organization
  • Expertise with the content of the council goal and objectives
  • Time available to devote to the council
  • Communication skills to work comfortably with a diverse group of leaders, professionals, patients and community members
  • Knowledge of council evaluation and data analysis

Council Lead roles and responsibilities include:

  • Develop project goals and objectives
  • Define the council’s role in the organization and in relation to the council’s goals and objectives
  • Obtain organizational and financial support for the council and any projects related
  • Recruiting, orienting and supervising the council coordinator
  • Being a member of the council and participate in meetings
  • Participate in project activities
  • Oversee project evaluation and data analysis
  • Ensure the project is completed on time
  • Commit 1 to 5 hours a week, depending on the size of the project

Council coordinator

A critical person for successful implementation of a patient advisory council, the council coordinator is responsible for the day-to-day management of the council and its activities and should be the first staff member identified and engaged in the project. A council coordinator should be a personable individual with excellent communication skills who is sensitive to individual council member needs; respects diversity; is able to build a team based on trust, honesty and respect.

Council Coordinator roles and responsibilities include:

  • Working directly with the Council Lead
  • Recruit and orientate staff members
  • Recruit and orientate council members
  • Serving as the primary liaison to the council members; providing communication with council members via individual communications, meeting agendas and minutes; and addressing individual concerns or needs
  • Chairing all council meetings
  • Communicate with internal staff and leaders by attending department, staff and individual meetings, and presentations
  • Working with external community organizations through communications, meetings and presentations
  • Coordinating and participating in public relations and media activities, including press releases, media presentations and public events
  • Developing and implementing project strategies and interventions in conjunction with other team members
  • Monitoring the council budget
  • Monitoring the quality of a council project
  • Committing 5 to 20 hours per week, depending on the size of a project the council has committed to

Maintaining and ensuring success

An important part of having a successful advisory council is to track its accomplishments. The council will track the following:

  • Specific goals defined and achieved
  • Minutes
  • Agenda planning with clear closure and transition at the end of each meeting
  • Attendance
  • Invite outside guests when necessary to accomplish goals