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Ombudswomen: listen to parents for better care

Treating children with cancer is a complex process. Sometimes things do not go as smoothly as expected, and parents and children do not reach a satisfactory solution with the treatment team. They can tell their story to Elise Steenbergen or Liesbeth Smulders, the ombudswomen of the Princess Máxima Center.

A receptive ear for parents and children, and a place for suggestions, tips for improvement or a complaint. And if something went very well, a compliment to the team. Parents and children can first turn to the care providers themselves. But sometimes this is difficult, and parents and children need an independent person. Someone they can contact easily for what they need to get off their chest. Our center has recently made ombudswomen available for this.

Learning from experience
Elise says, "The Princess Máxima Center wants to learn from experience, so that we can continue to improve care. Feedback from parents and children is indispensable for this. Be it tips and suggestions, compliments or complaints about things going wrong. It's all just as valuable." Parents and children could always talk to their own therapist or another healthcare provider. But if that did not work out, the complaints officer of the UMC Utrecht was their last resort. Elise says, "That threshold is very high. People need to be able to tell their story here. That also has the advantage that we can do something with it right away. Real improvements are achieved by looking for solutions together and learning from experiences."

Together with the professionals
The ombudswomen are part of the Quality Department. Liesbeth says, "We see everything we hear – from suggestions to complaints – as cues for improvement. We maintain contact with the Children's Advisory Council, the Client Council and the VOKK, who also take up a great deal. On the basis of various signals, we make a quarterly analysis and give the departments recommendations for improvement." Elise and Liesbeth emphasize that they do not pass judgment. Liesbeth says, "We don't solve a problem ourselves either, we mediate between the parties involved. We listen, explore any complaints together and deal with them in close contact with the professionals."

Feeling safe
Elise is enthusiastic about the involvement of colleagues. "For example, the Facilities people have already come to us. After all, they hear a lot of signals and want to share them with us." The ombudswomen stand for a safe environment, where the position of staff is also taken into account. Liesbeth says, "If parents have a serious complaint or are even angry, this affects the colleagues concerned. We also have a mediating role in these situations. We work closely with Rianne Maillé, the professional support counsellor who supports employees with profound professional experiences." Elise says, "We're here primarily for parents and children. And so for their complaints. But we don't walk around here as if we don't have faith. No one needs to feel unsafe in the Princess Máxima Center. We make quality together, that's always our starting point."

More information
Elise and Liesbeth are employed as ombudswomen at the Princess Máxima Center, but work autonomously and independently. They also have a duty of confidentiality. They can be reached daily via (06) 5000 6416 and by email: ombudsvrouw@prinsesmaximacentrum.nl. Parents and children can drop by on weekdays in room 009 at the LATER outpatient clinic.