Read the stories below to learn about how we are building a sustainable community of patient medical homes. Thank you to the patients, physicians and team members who generously gave of their time and shared their stories with us.
“I am very humbled and happy that Mom is able to get the help she needs.”
~ Kaan K.
Meeting Kaan and his mother Feza for this first time, the close bond they share is obvious. Seated together at the dining room table they smile at one another often and Feza stresses repeatedly what a good son he is.
There’s no doubt Kaan is devoted to his mother. The 62-year-old pensioner from Turkey lives with him full-time in Calgary and he does his best to support her as she struggles with multiple health issues, including high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis. But Kaan admits the expenses can be daunting.
“I’m helping her and she does have her own pension from Turkey, but when she transfers it to Canadian dollars she loses two thirds of it,” he explains. “And her medications are very expensive. She takes a lot of them and it just adds-up.”
During a routine visit a few months ago Feza’s family doctor discovered that she wasn’t taking some key medications because she simply couldn’t afford them. This resulted in a referral to CWC PCN Social Worker, Rochelle Roach.
Rochelle met with Feza and Kaan to assess their needs, identify barriers and help connect them with the correct assistance.
“A lot of times when people are coming to me they’re feeling overwhelmed or maybe helpless or forgotten,” says Rochelle. “I do as much of the legwork as possible to remove stress from the situation and ensure things go smoothly for them.”
With this goal in mind, Rochelle helped Feza apply for the Alberta Adult Health Benefit and was soon able to get coverage for her medications, as well as other necessities like basic dental and ambulance service.
“It actually was really fast, I would say within three or four weeks” says Kaan. “Thank God for the Primary Care Network providing this service. Rochelle said she might be able to get us help, and she did.”
“I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that people are going to be healthier or safer or even just happier, and that I played a part in getting them the support they needed,” concludes Rochelle.
“Whenever I would try and make excuses, Jill would put me right back to my target and that really helped.”
~ Elizabeth, patient
Elizabeth Braile is a life-long smoker who knows all too well how hard it is to quit.
“I’ve tried everything over the years,” the affable 69-year-old shrugs. “I’ve tried hypnosis, Champex, Nicorette gum, even e-cigarettes, but nothing has ever worked.”
So when her family doctor insisted that it was time to quit smoking, he referred her to CWC PCN primary care nurse Jill McWilliam, a Certified Tobacco Educator and health coach.
“I clicked with her right away,” Elizabeth says. “She was a coach, for sure, but also a teacher and a cheerleader. She was proud of me when I succeeded and I didn’t want to disappoint her!”
Jill describes her approach to tackling tobacco as less about education and more about coaching. “So many smokers know exactly what they’re supposed to do and beat themselves up for not doing it,” she explains. “But I think coaching gives them a different perspective on the same issue.”
For example, Jill encouraged Elizabeth to get mad at the cigarettes instead of herself, to treat them like an abusive best friend or partner.
“She told me things I’d never heard before,” says Elizabeth. “Like don’t get mad at yourself for smoking, get mad at those nicotine cigarettes and divorce them! That made a big difference.”
Jill also helped Elizabeth focus on the relationship between her feelings, thoughts and actions. “Most smokers scarcely have time to think before they’re already smoking,” Jill stresses. “If you can just extend that thought period to five or 10 seconds, you can come up with different things to do besides smoke.”
Now, when she’s stressed and feeling like smoking, Elizabeth gives herself time to think by crocheting, gardening, phoning a friend or journalling. “If I get the urge, right away I’m doing something,” she says. “It’s a choice, sometimes a two- or three-times a day choice, but it’s what I have to do right now and it works.”
After seeing Jill half-a-dozen times, Elizabeth feels good, her breathing is better and she’s confident about quitting smoking. “I feel really good about it. This time I’m attacking the cigarettes, not myself. They’re the enemy.”
"I am less worried about when the pain will return – I can live more in the moment."
~ Linda, patient
Linda has spent most of her life teaching others life-long skills. As a retired school teacher, she reflects upon a successful career teaching Calgary grade school children a range of subjects including music.
Everybody goes through tougher times though. For Linda, the loss of a daughter in addition to coping with her mother’s journey and death due to dementia brought about a deep depression and alcoholism.
“I felt I no longer connected with who I was and what I had become,” says Linda. She looked for help starting with her family doctor. Through guidance from her physician, she was able to meet with Donna Herrick, a CWC PCN Behavioural Health Consultant (BHC).
Donna worked with Linda through several sessions and like the classroom she was once a part of, she had homework to do. Donna provided an empathetic ear but also skills, coun-selling and resources that helped focus on a plan to identify challenging thoughts and emotions, difficult situations and life-draining actions.
“I had a lot of guilt to get rid of and Donna helped with mind-fulness and being in the moment and to let go of so much worry,” Linda says. “She still helps me by reminding me to live for today and I was able to put my daughter’s death in perspective.”
Adding to the guilt and depression, Linda also lives with chronic pain. The same coping skills are able to assist her in dealing with pain. “Because I am sometimes on a health roller coaster, I am able to be less worried about when the pain will return – I can live more in the moment.”
“Working with Linda has been a pleasure,” says Donna. “It was clear from the beginning that she valued improving her quality of life and possessed a willingness to implement the strategies I suggested allowing her to make the progress she needed.”
The action plan that Donna and Linda created is working but this is also a journey. By working through obstacles together and keeping on track through support, Linda says that it was help at the right time and right place. “I encourage people to look into this service if they need it and don’t wait.”
“They want to look after your health – I can’t remember how I handled it all before.”~ Tim, patient
Two-time cancer survivor, Tim Mitchell, has seen more than his fair share of doctor’s offices, but it was his interaction with Patient Care Coordinator (PCC), Cindy Kalenga that changed his perspective on healthcare hospitality. “I go to the doctor a lot more than most people do,” Tim says, “it’s great to have Cindy to help with all of it.”
Patient Care Coordinators like Cindy provide proactive outreach and screening by mining patient data and identifying those who require specific health services and arranging follow-up appointments for patients with their care providers.
“There’s something about this job that makes me feel like a pivotal part of my patients’ healthcare,” says Cindy. “Doctors are busy and don’t always have the time to do what we do, but we help make sure that people don’t fall through the cracks.”
Tim’s frequent encounters with hospitals and medical practitioners allow him to appreciate Cindy’s help coordinating his medical appointments.
“She makes sure that if I have multiple appointments, they’re scheduled back-to-back so it is convenient for me,” he explains. “She reminds me when I have an upcoming appointment or if I have an overdue prescription.”
“It seems simple, but it’s really important and people don’t realize how much work goes into it,” says Cindy. “Patients have needs and there is a lot of work to be done, but it’s great…I love my job.”
After working with Cindy for a year, Tim is impressed by the impact a PCC can have on a patient’s overall experience. “Before Cindy, I had never heard of a PCC and now I can’t remember how I handled it all before her,” Tim confesses. “It’s refreshing to have someone to keep track of it all and it makes doctor’s visits a lot less stressful.”
Cindy looks forward to work each day because she enjoys interacting with patients. “They know me and they rely on me to remind them about appointments as well as follow up with them - they really appreciate it.”
“It was a great experience at a time where we were very confused about what was going on. It was a great service, they put our minds at ease.”
Having worked at the CWC Primary Care Centre (CWC PCC) for close to 11 years, Charmaine von der ahe is thrilled with the continual progression of the clinic. “It keeps changing; you can’t compare what it is now to what it was when we first started out,” she marvels, “It’s an amazing thing to experience.”
“When I started working here it was just me and the physicians,” Charmaine recalls. “Now we are fully booked with patients and staffed with an entire team working together to help them.”
The PCC is supported through the collaboration of physicians and Patient Care Team (PCT) members who are passionate about improving the health of patients within the community. “The clinic provides a really good service - it keeps non-emergent patients out of the emergency room and gives unattached patients somewhere to go,” says CWC PCN physician Dr. Melissa Kotkas.
It also offers primary care services to patients who are unable to access their family doctors. “We are available for same-day service, 365 days-a-year and provide immediate appointments to those in need,” explains Licensed Practical Nurse, Doris Mercado.
To schedule an appointment at the PCC, patients are required to contact their family doctors or call Health Link to receive a referral if their family physician is unavailable. Don Jacques, first time patient at the PCC, was pleased with the service. “It wasn’t an emergency, but we were anxious to see the doctor,” says Don. “The staff were excellent and we were very pleased with the way they looked after us.”
Even though people are only seen at the PCC until they can return to their regular doctor, building relationships with patients at the clinic is still a priority. “We do our best to get to know the patients during the time we have with them and explain the details to make sure they understand it,” Doris explains.
“People really appreciate it,” adds Dr. Kotkas. “We’ve had patients tell us how wonderful the services are and that they wish they had known about the PCC earlier.”
“It’s a good place to work,” Charmaine concludes. “I’m proud to have been a part of the evolution from the beginning.”
The Calgary West Central PCN is made up of 489 physicians in over 132 clinics.find one near you