Volunteer Spotlight: Rebecca Levenberg and the Patient and Family Advisory Council

Magee’s Patient and Family Advisory Council members include patients and their family members who volunteer their time to be a part of the council, along with Magee’s administrative leadership and front-line staff.  The council meetings focus primarily on customer service, with the intent to improve things such as the admission and discharge processes and the general level of collaboration between patients, families, and staff. The mission of the PFAC is to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities by helping foster and continually improve the culture of patient-and family-centered care at Magee. 

Rebecca Levenberg, a founding member of the PFAC (2010-2012), shares her story and experience as a member:

In December 2010, when I was admitted to Magee, I faced a lifetime of disability.  I had been hit by a truck while riding my bicycle to work one morning. As a result, I suffered many internal injuries and had my left leg amputated above the knee. More than that, I landed in a medical world I never knew existed. Everything was different – the way I moved, the medications I needed, and the way I depended on others. Even my body looked different. All I could see before me were wheelchairs and bandages. I had no idea how I’d ever fit into this strange, new, uncomfortable world, or what my future would hold.

Two and a half years later — after lots of rehab! — I was invited to participate in Magee’s first Patient and Family Advisory Council.

If you walk into our Patient and Family Advisory Council meeting, you’ll see people in wheelchairs.  You’ll see headrests and hand controls, braces and canes.  You’ll definitely notice my high-tech prosthesis!

But if you listen, there’s much more than meets the eye.

The staff members on the Council are a multidisciplinary group, and so are the patients. If I had to guess, I’d say our ages range from 25 to 80. We are varied in ethnicity, profession, and socio-economic level. But we are united in our desire to improve and give back to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.

From our very first meeting, I realized that we are not just former patients. The committee enables us to share our experiences as patients, but to do so from our varied perspectives. We are accountants, engineers, doctors, developers, lobbyists, athletes, students, travelers, and businesspeople.  We are fathers and mothers, husbands and wives. I’m a special education teacher.  I’m also a peer mentor for new amputees, and I volunteer in Magee’s rehab gym. I am only one of the viewpoints on the committee. We approach issues in different ways. We bring different background knowledge to the table. We learn from each other.

Differences aside, we have all been through the patient experience. Through our meetings, we discovered that we all shared similar fears and anxieties during our time as patients. For example, we were all nervous and insecure at admission; we all had trouble sleeping at night; and we all struggled to organize our medications (and our lives) upon discharge. Finding these common threads helped Magee identify starting points for change.

The Patient and Family Advisory Council not only gives a voice to former patients, but provides a purpose for our experiences. Accidents and illnesses are traumatic, as are all their repercussions. The staff at Magee took care of us during the most challenging times of our lives. Serving on the Patient Advisory Council empowers us to put those painful — and victorious — memories to good use.  It gives our experiences a new utility, not only for us, but for the hospital community at large.

Our experiences and perspectives become building blocks to improve care for patients yet to come.

As a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council, I  – a former patient — help Magee move forward.  And in doing so, I move forward, too.

Read more about Magee’s Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Read more about Rebecca Levenberg.

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