After her husband’s unexpected hospital death just eight days after successful surgery in 2008, Carolyn Canfield rose above tragedy to learn about safety and changing culture for better experiences for patients and for health care workers. Her contributions exemplify the value of partnerships that integrate patient expertise with care providers’ vigilance, proficiency and accountability.

Carolyn Canfield
Carolyn Canfield

After rapidly building a comprehensive understanding of the health care system, and applying her abilities to listen, collaborate, and lead change, Carolyn has become a passionate advocate for strengthening the patient-practitioner relationship. Since joining the Patient Voices Network in 2011, her placements have opened doors for learning and introduced her to hundreds of fellow volunteers and providers in lasting supportive networks.

Pioneering to advance the patient voice, Carolyn became UBC’s first citizen-patient faculty appointment as honorary lecturer in the Department of Family Practice, the first lay case presenter for Island Health’s Anesthesia Grand Rounds and a frequent keynote presenter for BC patient safety initiatives. Her experiences at the podium and head table include addressing Providence Health Care’s Expanded Leadership Forum, leading a seminar for the Western Regional Training Centre for Health Services Research and opening the biennial assembly of the Perioperative Nurses Association of BC. Her message invariably urges engaging with patients to improve care.

Carolyn has accompanied patients to medical appointments to strengthen their confidence in asking questions, connected keen practitioners and patient leaders across continents to share their passion for identical improvement goals, and encouraged organizations at every scale to partner with patients in their work. Health care professionals and patients alike appreciate how energetic, understanding and respectful she is to work with.

Carolyn’s ability to motivate people from all facets of health care has led to worldwide invitations to share her insights on improvement from a patient perspective. She has led workshops and coached teams across Canada and in the United States, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Wales, England, France, Spain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

On her most recent trip to Australia, she shared BC’s patient partnership experiences with Health Consumers Queensland; set precedent with a keynote address to the 75th scientific congress of the Australian Society of Anaesthetists; drove days across the remote Outback to join with patients, communities and clinicians using even more distant video bridges; examined job satisfaction with staff and physicians at a large suburban primary care practice; created powerful ties with people at a rural mental health facility; and probed the limits of “harm-free health care” with the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators.

Carolyn’s passion for knowledge and improvement relies on an enduring generosity, which make her a true source of inspiration for patients and caregivers. By incorporating the strengths she observes in each place she visits and the insights she absorbs from every project in which she participates, she is helping to build a safer health care system for everyone in British Columbia.