With visitor restrictions still in place, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) has introduced a new pilot program to ensure patients can still spend time with their family and loved ones.

Dedicated staff members will visit units to connect patients with their families and loved ones through a variety of virtual platforms such as FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. These visits can be done through the patient bedside entertainment system or an iPad provided by RVH.

“Early feedback has been very positive and there’s been so many heartwarming stories,” says Nancy Savage, executive vice president patient and family experience, regional vice president Ontario Health and Chief Nursing Executive. “One patient’s spouse was able to send him a virtual kiss as he was being wheeled in for a procedure; another patient was able to connect with their family in the United States and another patient was so emotional after being able to speak to his daughter and spouse that he broke down in tears, leaving staff to describe the interaction as ‘the most emotional moment in their career’”.

Patients, or family members, can contact the inpatient units directly to arrange a visit. Once a suitable time is agreed upon and appropriate technology, an RVH staff member will set up and faciliate the visit.

Barrie resident Tom Culyer has been a patient in RVH’s Integrated Stroke and Rehabiltation Unit for the past two months and due to the pandemic restrictions has not had any in-person visits. He recently had his first visit with his wife of 58 years, Sylvia, and shared his experience. Through the supported virtual visit program, Tom was able to ‘chat’ with Sylvia and his two daughter-in-laws for 20 minutes. “I was so appreciative to be able to see my wife,” says Culyer. “You think you’re a tough guy, but I got very emotional. Being able to see my wife has given me incentive to get better and to be able to go home. Nothing beats having an in person visit but this was the next best thing.” Staff have arranged another virtual visit for Tom and Sylvia to coincide with their wedding anniversary.

The project was rolled out utilizing two staff members and will expand using newly hired Externs, clinical students in various stages of their fields of learning who assist in a variety of areas of the health centre. Josee Hill, Registered Practical Nurse (RPN), is one of the dedicated staff members and remarked on the success of the program. “This is just an exceptional progam with overwhelmingly positive feedback,” says Hill. “It is really emotional when patients and their family members connect and really does motivate patients. It also provides great reassurance – both to families and the patient – that their loved ones are ok.”

Josee Hill, RPN and patient Tom Colyer
Josee Hill, RPN helps patients like Tom Culyer visit virtually with loved ones