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 particular topic, please reach out to the team via

May 6, 2021, 1:00 pm  ̶ 1:45 pm (ET)
Topic: Essential Together moving co-developed policy into practice across Alberta Health Services –

Speakers: Chris Mayhew, Senior Consultant, Engagement and Patient Experience, Alberta Health Services and Dean Radbourne, Patient and Family Advisor, Alberta Health Services Patient and Family Advisory Group

 This huddle will talk about the balance that needs to be achieved when co-developing provincial guidance and directives, and then moving them into action across a provincial health system. Learn how one province has put policy into action by developing a set of mutual expectations for patients, caregiver and staff, to safely reintegrate essential care partners back into their facilities. We’ll talk about some of the barriers experienced during the roll-out and strategies that are being used in moving forward.

May 26, 2021, 1:00 pm  ̶ 1:45 pm (ET)
Topic: Family Presence Support Teams
Speaker: Saskatchewan Health 

June 9, 2021, 1:00 pm  ̶ 1:45 pm (ET)
Topic: Boosting our evidence in a time of vaccines

June 30, 2021, 1:00 pm  ̶ 1:45 pm (ET)
Topic: What now? And How?

July 7, 2021, 1:00 pm  ̶ 1:45 pm (ET)
Topic: Adapting and communicating in times of rapid change

Particularly during the pandemic, there are frequent and rapid changes that impact patients, staff and essential care partners. In this huddle we will discuss the three C’s – consistent, clear and concise – in regular communication and screening processes.

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.  

Past Webinars

April 8, 2021: ”Mrs Jones, who are your essential care partners?”
Lisa Raffoul, Patient Advocate, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare

Watch the recording via YouTube
Presentation slides

Key resources (currently English only):

March 25, 2021: Supporting staff in the safe reintegration of essential care partners
Speaker: Jennifer Cornell, Director of Long-Term Care, Grey County

Watch the recording via YouTube

Key resources (currently English only):

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:

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.

Family may include relatives and non-relatives and is defined by the patient.

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.

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.

Patients includes residents and clients.