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St. Bernard Hospital’s Patient Advisory Council Keeps Englewood Residents’ Health Front and Center During Pandemic

St. Bernard Hospital’s Patient Advisory Council Keeps Englewood Residents’ Health Front and Center During Pandemic

Dr. Shenika Jackson, an Englewood community psychologist and executive leader of a local youth-centered nonprofit, has been co-chair of St. Bernard Hospital’s Patient and Family Advisory Council for Quality and Safety (PFACQS) since 2019. She was born at the hospital in November 1978, so she’s had a lifelong connection to St. Bernard.

“We all share the belief that St. Bernard Hospital is here to provide care and services to the Englewood community,” Jackson says of the Council. “We want residents coming here to take care of their health needs right in their own neighborhood.”

Jackson is one of nine Englewood residents and hospital staff who make up this important committee. The Council’s goal is to protect the health and safety of patients and Englewood residents, and that work has become more focused since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

With COVID-19 severely impacting the Englewood community, Jackson and fellow Council members are taking an aggressive approach to increasing Englewood residents’ overall health and connecting them to St. Bernard.

“We are making a big push to have our neighbors get vaccines and health screenings here,” says Englewood resident and Council member, Marcus Robinson. “We want to be a trusted voice for the community as it faces the pandemic.”

Englewood has grappled with some of the highest COVID-19 hospital admission and death rates per 100,000 people in Chicago. By December 2020, these admission and mortality rates reached 1,278.30 and 161.4 respectively. To help reduce these high rates, the Council is currently building and mobilizing a new COVID-19 education and prevention campaign for the Englewood community.

As pandemic fatigue continues, the Council wants to make sure people don’t let their guards down. Council members have developed materials on COVID-19 warning signs and prevention strategies. The plan is to share these educational materials with Englewood’s senior citizens, encouraging them to get vaccinated and stay safe. They also recently launched a video series informing Englewood residents about their own vaccination experiences and the importance of vaccinations for everyone in the community.

“Don’t wait until things get too bad,” Jackson says. “Take your vaccine. Get check-ups and do what you need to make sure you’re okay. That’s the message we want people to get.”

Prior to the pandemic, council members met in person every second Wednesday to develop community wellness projects that promote healthy living among Englewood residents. These days, they meet through teleconferences.

During Council meetings, community members hear about the work taking place at the hospital. In turn, St. Bernard staff listen to community members’ feedback on ways to expand hospital care and services. The Council then creates and directs projects, workshops, and events based on their discussions.

One important project the Council led was a public education campaign helping hospital visitors understand how to best utilize the hospital’s emergency room services for their health needs. The campaign helped make clear which health conditions require attention in the hospital’s emergency room, versus those that can be treated in the Immediate Care Clinic. Information was also provided to help visitors understand how health providers make decisions on who to treat first when they visit the emergency room – a process determined by the patient’s condition.

Patient education goes a long way, and Council members are hopeful that more Englewood residents will learn more about St. Bernard Hospital’s services. Residents are also encouraged to stay healthy during the pandemic and do their part to keep the community healthy.

Those interested in helping the Council with future initiatives and COVID-19 work should email Diahann Sinclair, St. Bernard Hospital’s Vice President of Organizational and Community Development, at [email protected].

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