Patient and family guide to Essential Care Partners at The Ottawa Hospital
Note: this page contains general information about the Essential Care Partner Program at The Ottawa Hospital. For specific information about being an ECP during the COVID-19, pandemic, please also read Important information for Essential Care Partners during the COVID -19 pandemic.
What is an Essential Care Partner?
An Essential Care Partner (ECP) is a support person whose presence is considered essential to the safety and well-being of a patient while they are in the hospital. An ECP is different from a social visitor or a paid support worker. Most often, they are family or close friends of the patient who typically know the patient’s health history, lifestyle and personal values.
Why can ECPs visit patients in the hospital?
Having a familiar person available to patients to provide different types of support can help improve their health outcomes. The ECP designation provides a consistent and equitable way for patients to have access to this support as safely as possible despite visitor restrictions and is consistent with the hospital’s vision to provide each patient with the world-class care, exceptional service and compassion we would want for our loved ones.
For the safety of everyone at The Ottawa Hospital, steps are being taken to minimize the number of people in the hospital at any one time, while also taking into account the needs of our patients. We are all working together to minimize the number of people in the hospital. In-person visits are not the only way an ECP can support a patient effectively.
How can an ECP support their loved one?
There are many ways an ECP could offer support to their loved one. Some examples could include:
- advocating for them
- supporting their decision making
- providing emotional and cognitive support
- being a part of planning their care while in the hospital and once they are discharged
- helping them use technology to connect with friends or loved ones
- helping them eat, move around, bathe, communicate etc. as needed
- participating in patient and family education
- letting the care team know when they see a change in the patient
Who can choose an ECP?
All patients at The Ottawa Hospital (or their Substitute Decision Makers (SDM)) can choose one ECP plus a maximum of one alternate if needed. However, not every patient will want or need an ECP. Ultimately, it is each patient’s decision to make. For patients needing two ECPs, all involved should work together to develop an alternating schedule so that only one of their ECPs is at the hospital at a time.
Are ECPs permitted in all cases?
As much as possible, every patient who wants an ECP should have access to one. However, there are certain instances where ECPs may not be permitted for safety reasons.
What are the steps to becoming an ECP?
- The patient or Substitute Decision Maker (SDM) chooses one to two people as their ECP.
- The health-care team/clerk and unit manager registers the person(s) as an ECP
- The ECP is offered online training on IPAC practices. If there are barriers to completing the online training, ECPs can access printed material or receive direct teaching from IPAC staff.
- The ECP agrees to follow IPAC practices and unit-specific policies. These can include physical distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks. Health-care staff must observe the ECP to ensure they are using personal protective equipment effectively.
What if I have questions about the ECP initiative?
Please talk to a member of the health-care team or call 613-722-7000
- Infection Prevention and Control for Caregivers and Families (Free online course from McMaster University)
- The Ontario Caregiver Association
Last updated on: March 15th, 2021