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NewsCelebrating caregivers as essential partners in care during Patient Safety Week

Celebrating caregivers as essential partners in care during Patient Safety Week

October 26, 2021

As the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) marks Patient Safety Week, we are reminded, as physicians, that patients and their caregivers are essential partners in ensuring safe care.

Our experience has taught us that every opportunity to better understand a patient’s journey is valuable, especially in our rapidly changing health care environment. Today, safe patient care is not a one-way conversation between a provider and a patient. It involves relationships and competencies that promote communication and understanding. That communication happens in different ways.

Increasingly, patients are actively involved in their own care. Those who are not always able to speak up on their own are supported by family and/or community caregivers, who provide vital information and facilitate communication between physicians and patients. Caregivers play an important role in making patients feel more secure. We need to learn how to better listen to these important voices. We also know that providing culturally safe care, that patients feel comfortable accessing, has a positive impact on patient outcomes.

The theme for this year’s Patient Safety Week is “Essential Partners in Care,” to acknowledge the vital role caregivers play in the health and well-being of patients.

At the MCC, we recognize the value caregivers bring to safe patient care. One way we are integrating this into our work is by updating our multi-source feedback tool that physicians use to support their continuing professional development.

MCC 360 evaluates physicians’ collaboration, communication, and professional behaviours in the workplace using feedback collected in survey responses from their patients, as well as other physicians and co-workers, such as nurses.

Since its launch in 2018, the MCC has refined the program in response to user feedback. For many who have used MCC 360 to date, reading the narrative responses from patients, co-workers and colleagues, as well as receiving the results from a trained facilitator and peer coach, have proven to be the most valuable learning opportunities.

In 2020, some organizations and physicians we work with told us how important it is to also hear from caregivers. The MCC listened. We conducted a series of focus groups with both family caregivers and patients to ask about their experience with the physicians they interact with. We sought input from caregivers who support a wide range of patients, including children, elderly parents and grandparents, community members who have difficulty communicating for themselves in a medical setting (for example, because of a language barrier or a developmental disability), spouses navigating a difficult diagnosis or treatment path, loved ones in a rural setting who may not have local access to all the care they require, or caregivers who advocate for a loved one’s care from a distance.

In each session, we asked participants what was important to them when it comes to physician communication, collaboration, and professionalism. We used their input to develop a new questionnaire designed to provide physicians with feedback on how they effectively engage caregivers as a vital member of the health care team and system of support for the patient.

We believe having this information will make a positive difference to the care and services physicians provide. Our research already shows that patient feedback is the biggest driver that encourages physicians to adjust their behaviour and strengthen their key competencies. We are confident the voice of caregivers will add another valuable dimension that will enhance safe patient care in Canada.

On behalf of the MCC, we are delighted to celebrate the role that caregivers play as essential partners in care and to take a valuable step by providing them a voice in the MCC 360.


Bruce Wright, MD, CCFP, FCFP

Maureen Topps, MB ChB, MBA, FCFP, FRCPC (Hon)
Executive Director and CEO