Helping young patients feel more at home - LHSC youth peer support program receives recognition as a Leading Practice

Keanna and Diana playing UNO together

Youth CoRE is one of 15 hospital initiatives recently added to the Health Standards Organizations Leading Practices Library

Keanna Shrubsall was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis at the age of six. With many hospital visits over the past 11 years, Keanna is no stranger to London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and Children’s Hospital. Frequenting the hospital as a teen can be lonely and no fun, but for Keanna, she is one of thousands of young patients who has had the opportunity to bond with other youth through the hospital's Youth CoRE team. 


Youth CoRE, which stands for Youth Connect, Relate and Engage, connects patients to help them feel like regular kids, despite their hospitalization. 

“It is really nice to have someone else to talk to when I am in the hospital," says Shrubsall, who is also a Children’s Heroes Ambassador with Children’s Health Foundation. “It is great to have some entertainment and be able to pretend that you’re not in the hospital, while at the same time making a friend.” 

The Youth CoRE peer support program at LHSC has been helping adolescents admitted to Children’s Hospital feel more at home since its inception in 2019 and to date, engages with over 3100 patients a year.

The program was created by LHSC’s Child and Youth Advisory Council (CYAC) after they identified a gap in services for patients ages 12-18. The program now receives annual funding from the Children’s Health Foundation. 

“We have five members of the Youth CoRE team and everyone on the team has had either a personal patient experience or an experience through one of their siblings in the hospital, which helps us relate to the patient we are spending time with,” says Diana Kassem, Youth Resource Facilitator. “Our program offers one-on-one time to play games and chat so that the patient can have some fun, relax a bit, and get out of the hospital space.”

“Our adolescent patients played a critical role in the development of the program, and this is something we’re really proud of,” says Levv Shatil, Youth Resource Facilitator and former CYAC Co-Chair. “Patients are saying their time spent with a Youth Resource Facilitator is a good distraction. It helps them pass the time, makes them feel less lonely, increases their sense of control and helps to improve their overall experience." 

Keanna (patient) and Diana (Youth CoRE member)
Keanna (patient) and Diana (Youth CoRE team member) spending time, playing games together.

For Keanna, being able to bond with a Youth CoRE member during her hospital stays and treatments has helped make her patient journey a positive one.  

“It just takes the fear of being in the hospital away and having to deal with medical procedures. I love having opportunities to hang out and bond with someone who understands what I am going through.” 

Leading the way 

The Youth CoRE peer support program has recently been added to the Health Standards Organization (HSO) Leading Practices Library. The Leading Practices Library is a national platform where innovative, people-centered, and evidence-informed practices that have demonstrated positive change are recognized. Some examples are practices that have led to safe and reliable care, accessible and appropriate care, and/or integrated care which is then posted for other organizations to reference and consider implementing. The HSO and its affiliate, Accreditation Canada, help organizations like LHSC adopt these leading practices as new standards within their walls. 

To date, LHSC has had 15 leading practices recognized in 2023 ranging in a number of innovative patient centered care programs. 

“We are pleased to see that London Health Sciences Centre is being recognized as a leader in a number of important unique initiatives that are enhancing patient care and patient experience,” says Tammy Quiggly, System Innovation and Business Development Executive at LHSC. “The Youth CoRE program is just one example of ensuring our patients are fully supported by our hospital community and what makes this extra special is that it is being led by youth that will help shape the future of our hospital.” 

Leading practices at a glance

During this past Accreditation cycle, the Quality and Patient Safety team (formerly the Accreditation team) helped submit almost 40 practices for consideration. The 15 successful submissions to date are: