In this section :

Essential Together Huddles: Connecting for peer-to-peer learning and support

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in blanket visitor restrictions that prohibit essential care partners from accessing loved ones in health and care facilities. Although the restrictive policies were put in place with the best intentions, they bring known risks and unintended harm to patients and families and moral distress to staff. To support organizations to safely welcome back essential care partners, Healthcare Excellence Canada launched Essential Together Huddles.

Essential Together Huddles:

  • Connect and bring together those who create, implement or experience family presence policy during the pandemic and beyond.
  • Create an open, safe and supportive space for people to share with and learn from others facing similar challenges.
  • Enable learning across various health and care settings

Essential Together Huddles are open to anyone and designed particularly for those people and organizations formally participating in the Essential Together program.

Huddle Format:

Huddles run for just 45 minutes. They involve a 15 minute presentation from subject matter experts and/or organizations sharing how they’re implementing policy guidance to reintegrate essential care partners during the pandemic. Following each presentation, we have a group discussion to help encourage peer-to-peer learning and support.

We welcome you to share your experiences, both successes and challenges. We want participants to come away from each Huddle with practical tools and/or learning they can apply to their work.

Upcoming Huddles

The following dates are confirmed, and we will populate the Huddle themes and speakers as they are confirmed. If you’re interested in presenting, or have a suggestion for a topic, please reach out to the team.

Register to attend Essential Together Huddles

If you can’t join live, but are interested in the content, please register anyway. We’ll email you a recording of the presentation component from each Huddle, as well as posting the recording on this webpage.

October 19, 2022

How safe is your care?  Building capacity for patient safety in partnership with providers, patients and essential care partners.


  • Anne MacLaurin, Senior Program Lead, Healthcare Excellence Canada
  • Maaike Asselbergs, Patients for Patient Safety Canada.

Improving patient safety has been a priority for more than 20 years, yet harm continues to occur an unacceptable rate. To enable safe care, we must rethink our approach.  The Measuring and Monitoring of Safety (2013, Vincent, Burnett and Carthey) offers a broader, dynamic approach for creating and sustaining safer care, in which patient partnerships are integral. This session prepared and delivered in partnership with patients, will explore the questions “how safe is your care?” and “what makes you feel safe?” and illustrate actions patients, carers, healthcare providers and leaders can take to support safety though inquiry and conversations.

November 16, 2022

Learning from Each Other – Implementing the Essential Partners-in-Care program at Lakeridge Health


  • Lina Reid, Consultant, Patient Experience, Lakeridge Health
  • Marina Gaziani, Consultant, Patient Experience, Lakeridge Health
  • Alison Kilbourn, Project Lead, Strategic Partnerships & Innovation, The Ontario Caregiver Organization

This session will focus on the implementation journey of the Essential Partner-in-Care (EPC) program at Lakeridge Health, including why the program was developed, the various components of the program, and challenges and successes of the program roll-out so far. It will also include a brief overview of the Ontario Caregiver Organization’s Caregivers as Partners Learning Collaborative and highlight key learnings from cross-sectors partners that support the inclusion of caregivers.

December 21, 2022

Policy Guidance - Recognition of Essential Care Partners as Members of the Care Team


  • Carol Fancott, Director, Patient Engagement & Partnerships, Healthcare Excellence Canada
  • Jessie Checkley, Senior Program Lead, Patient Engagement & Partnerships, Healthcare Excellence Canada

This huddle will provide an overview of new policy guidance on the role of essential care partners as part of the care team intended for healthcare decision makers, notably system-level policy makers and system leaders. This policy guidance was co-developed through a series of virtual policy labs that included policy decision-makers, health system leaders who implement policy, and the people who are impacted by policy decisions – providers, administrators, patients, families and caregivers. It builds on earlier Policy Guidance for the Reintegration of Caregivers as Essential Care Partners.

Please note dates for upcoming Essential Together Huddles:

January 18, 2023

February 15, 2023

March 15, 2023

We know there is different language and terminology used across the country, but to make sure we provide as much clarity as possible, in this context:

Blanket visitor restrictions refer to restrictions that extend to all “visitors” entering a facility, often without exceptions, including essential care partners.

Essential care partners provide physical, psychological and emotional support, as deemed important by the patient. This care can include support in decision making, care coordination and continuity of care. Essential care partners are identified by the patient (or substitute decision maker) and can include family members, close friends or other caregivers.

Patients includes residents and clients.

Patient partners include patients, residents, clients, families, caregivers and care partners, and others with lived experience who are working together with teams to improve the quality and safety of healthcare.

Health and care facilities refers to hospitals, long-term care/residential care/nursing homes and other congregate care settings as well as primary care and outpatient care settings.

Open family presence policies support the presence of essential care partners at patient bedside at any time and not restricted by “visiting hours.”