Developing partnerships – Nicole


Posting an ad on a hospital website was one way that Nicole’s team searched for patient partners


The hospital has this group called PFAC — Patient Family Advisory Committee maybe it stands for — and so we went through them. We advertised on the website and then we have someone here who is part of the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) Support Unit, part of our Methods Centre, so she helped sort of put the word out for any patients that were looking to partner with researchers. But yeah, the two patient partners we ended up inviting to join our team, both had seen the advertisement on the website and applied that way.

I think we had quite a few responses because I think the topic itself was like kind of novel and interesting to people and people could understand it, and a lot of people have had at least one surgery in their life or know somebody who has. But I think the challenge was like sorting through them, because I mean obviously it’s a volunteer position; I mean we give our patients an honorarium, but it’s like it’s not their full time job. So it’s like how to be rigorous and make sure you have the right fit without doing like a full-out job interview, like hiring process.

And so I think it was just challenging like going through all the applications and meeting with people and like figuring out how to assess who would be the best fit for our team. Where like both the research team and the patient partners could get something out of it, so it’s a win-win situation, without being like super — I don’t know the word I’m looking for — but like a whole, like a series of like three interviews and send me your curriculum vitae (CV), and all the stuff, like we didn’t do that. It was more just like we met one time with people and talked to them; but it was hard to find that balance between finding the right people in a rigorous way but like not being so intimidating and scaring people away from this position that’s not a full-time job.

So we had people just basically asked for them to indicate their interests and then we set up the meetings — based on what people had written to us, and just had meetings with people who we thought like sort of would be a good match. And we decided that we would just have more of like an informal conversation in like a relaxed like setting, just kind of like around the table with our group. And we didn’t have like, I don’t know, like a piece of people with like — we weren’t checking boxes or like anything, like in a job interview. And we just like — I don’t know we just tried to keep it as friendly as possible, like friendly but still professional. And hoped for the best, I guess.

And we ended up getting lucky in finding two really awesome people, but there were — I think it was a little hard to tell people no. Like because they’re like volunteering their time and like they want to help, so it’s like it’s hard to email them and be like oh actually, thanks for your interest but you know, no. [Laughs] But yeah, so I found that hard; I mean like we didn’t get any negative feedback or anything, but I personally just found it hard because like I wish we could take all the patients that want to partner with researchers, but I guess, in order to make sure that it’s mutually beneficial and productive, you have to make sure it’s the right fit.

And then we also set up like a terms of reference between our groups and our patient partners, to outline what like everybody’s responsibilities are, like the research team and the patient partners. And like just sort of like be clear on all the roles and process. And both of the patient partners said they really appreciated that because they know what to expect from us, and they also knew like what we would like for them to do. And then we also specified like they would receive an honorarium and we would cover their travel costs and stuff like that.

And then we also worked, like set up meeting times that were like best for them, because one of them is a student and one of them has a full-time government job, so there’s like only certain days and times that can work for meetings and stuff, so we tried to like base it around them and what they wanted as much as possible.

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