Fraser Health social worker Andrew Saunderson-How to help your patients create their Advance Care Planning team
Written by Cari Borenko Hoffmann, Coordinator, Advance Care Planning

Learn why social worker Andrew Saunderson says his advance care planning talks have been some of the most rewarding conversations he’s ever had.

Fraser Health social worker Andrew Saunderson was aware that having advance care planning conversations with patients – talking to them about what gives their life meaning and who should make health care decisions for them once they are unable to themselves –  was something that social workers  and health care workers might feel, well, a little uncomfortable with.

But after attending a Fraser Health Advance Care Planning education session, the Surrey-based social worker discovered the complete opposite was true: that advance care planning talks with patients, families and even colleagues were some of the most rewarding conversations he’d ever had.

“I found on average that Advance Care Planning conversations take only ten to fifteen minutes, but they profoundly impact the care and treatment patients receive,” said Saunderson, who is passionate about sharing his experience with other health care workers.

Now, he routinely engages patients and families in these conversations in his work at Surrey Memorial Hospital, helping them plan ahead of health crises.

Recently, he supported a patient in her early 20s, who was diagnosed with cancer and faced an unknown future.

So Saunderson began the Advance Care Planning process with the patient and her mother. First, he explored with the patient what gave her life meaning and joy. That helped to reframe her future – a future that included a potential plan for a cure as well as understanding quality of life in the context of treatment outcomes. The patient realized that attending school, being with her friends, cooking and spending time with her dog were very important parts of her daily life that significantly contributed to her happiness and overall well-being. Their conversation helped lift her spirits and refocus her goals.

“This kind of conversation is really about the why,” Saunderson explained. “For this patient and her mother, they were rightfully so focused on a potential cure. But by providing them with the space and time to reflect about living well, they came to a clearer understanding that including what gives her life joy and meaning is also part of planning for the future.”

How can you help your patients prepare their Advance Care Planning journey and create their team?

If you are nervous or unsure about integrating advance care planning into your practice with patients, visit the Advance Care Planning page on FH Pulse to learn more.

April 16th is National Advance Care Planning Day. Ensure your patients share their future health care wishes with their health care team and loved ones. Health care takes teamwork. A strong team communicates.

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