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Date Published: Thursday, February 15, 2024
Date Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Power of the Family Advisory Council: Celebrating 10 Years of Success

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In 2013, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital established the Family Advisory Council (FAC), a group consisting primarily of family members of patients, hospital staff, and administrative leadership, coming together as partners to advocate for patient needs, improve the quality of care, and enhance the experience of patients and their family members.

As of today, the FAC has had over 30 family members and 10 hospital leaders participate and has gone above and beyond its original purpose. 

In the past ten years, members have contributed to patient-centered initiatives like the Ethics Committee and Speak Now for Safety campaign. They’ve improved facility spaces, bolstered communications between staff and families, and helped create educational materials and post-discharge instructions for various procedures.  

But they’re not just educating families. “This is a teaching hospital, and it’s been very powerful to take part in educating residents and attending physicians,” says founding member Annmarie Shisler. “We share our experiences and the personal impact our healthcare providers have on patient outcomes, which is something that cannot be taught with a textbook.”

FAC members also serve as Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and WMCHealth ambassadors, sharing their stories in the community, advocating for pediatric health at national conferences and even lobbying Congress in Washington, D.C.

“There's really no bounds to what they can do,” says Mary Delaney, director of Family Support and the Family Resource Center at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.

FAC members, mostly family members of patients, include parents of children with the entire spectrum of major childhood illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and chronic disabilities and siblings of children with special needs.

Ensuring patient safety is a top priority, and Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital actively participates in Solutions for Patient Safety (SPS), a network comprising over 140 children’s hospitals across the nation dedicated to enhancing patient safety. Engaging parents in this effort is integral to our mission. Several members of our Family Advisory Council (FAC) have answered this call and serve on SPS subcommittees focusing on fall prevention, infection control, and pressure injury management, ensuring the voice of the patient is represented.

Michael Gewitz, MD
Michael Gewitz, MD

“Family Advisory Council members represent the diverse array of healthcare needs here,” says Michael Gewitz, MD, Maria Fareri Children's Hospital’s Physician-in-Chief. “Its members have made significant contributions for patients and families of all backgrounds and lived experiences — their impact cannot be understated.”

While FAC members share a common bond as caretakers to medically complex children, we each carry a unique set of experiences and circumstances,” says member Jenni Barnao. “We collectively draw upon our diverse perspectives to optimize the quality of care and treatment for all families at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.”

Member Jen Italiano adds, “The FAC has become an intricate part of enhancing the patient and family experience by bridging the gap between families and hospital staff. It’s given a voice to the concerns of families in their most vulnerable times.”

As the FAC gears up for the next ten years of patient advocacy, they invite any patient, family member or loved one to join them. “We are a real community, and the FAC invites patients and their loved ones to join us, share their challenges and address them collaboratively as a means to improvement,” says member Grace Zuzzolo.

Your feedback can transform the patient experience. Learn how you can get involved.

Thirty members from five counties in the Hudson Valley region