Members of surgery partnership council
Hailey Schwass, RN (left), Nancy Elford, manager (centre) and Kim Ouimette, RPN (right) make up part of the Partnership Council in Surgery Health Services.

The last Monday of the month: How one day empowers entire MGH surgery unit

By Isabel Terrell 

“It’s so rewarding to see that what we’re doing is making a tangible difference for patients,” says Registered Nurse Hailey Schwass.

Behind the scenes of people-centred care, there is a robust system in place in Surgery Health Services at Michael Garron Hospital, Toronto East Health Network (MGH). On the last Monday of every month, members of the team host a Partnership Council meeting, a self-governed forum that gives inter-professional staff of all levels the autonomy to make decisions and innovate in their respective departments.

The council empowers staff to collaborate and discuss ideas to improve care and bring them into action all before they head home for the day.

Hailey has been co-chair of the council since its re-fresh almost two years ago, after the merging of two different surgery units at MGH.

She says the team recognized how helpful a council would be in making sure everyone was on the same page.

“New ideas are really important, and council gives us the chance to speak with more experienced nurses and learn a lot from them, as well,” says Hailey.

Each meeting is eight hours, the length of a shift. Unlike team huddles, councils allow the team to follow an agenda and execute ideas within the same day. With the time allotted to council, they can also bring in specialists from around the hospital to collaborate with.

Huddle is quick and numbers-focused,” says Hailey. “Council is more from our perspective of what we feel is important.”

In their monthly meeting, the council takes a deep dive into relevant and timely areas of improvement. Since its development, the council has finished and completed many projects that not only improved care for patients, but also improved workplace engagement in staff.

“The Partnership Council really instills in staff the importance of being heard,” says Nancy Elford, manager of Surgery Health Services.

While it’s challenging to find the time, budget, and back-up staff essential to running the partnership council meetings, Nancy says it’s “vital” to their success as a team.

“They’re at the front line. Any ideas coming forward are their ideas.” 

One of the consistent areas of focus is patient feedback. The members take a close look at responses to post-discharge phone calls that prompt patients to talk about their experiences in the hospital. They often divide the feedback into common themes and brainstorm to better understand their unit’s strengths and weaknesses from patients’ perspectives.

Hailey says this approach helps the unit feel like a team, instead of placing blame on specific individuals involved in care.

“It’s nice to have the space to provide feedback in that kind of way,” she says.

On another occasion, the team did an equipment audit for the unit and was able to bring a finalized ordering list to Nancy by the end of the meeting.

Hailey says next goals for the council include bringing in a patient representative member, and partnering with other units and hospitals.

“I’ve been really encouraged to express my ideas. I’m super grateful that our hospital gives us the opportunity to meet together to ensure we’re providing good care.”

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