Advisory council helps Suncoast Hospice provide patient-centered care

Jim Blincoe is a proud Suncoast Hospice Family Advisory Council Volunteer.

By Karen Davis-Pritchett M.Ed., Empath Health Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

As proud as he is to be a Suncoast Hospice volunteer, James Blincoe knows that nobody — and no organization — is perfect.

That’s why he is also proud to be a member of the Suncoast Hospice Family Advisory Council, a group of volunteers who come together to help Suncoast provide the best care possible for patients and their families.

Blincoe said the comments or concerns from patients, family members and caregivers about the hospice care they received are crucial to the council’s mission.

“We don’t always hit it out of the park,” said Blincoe, a U.S. Navy veteran who has volunteered for Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health for about nine years. “Sometimes, as hard as we try, we hit a foul ball, or we strike out. They bring that (patient and family feedback) to the council, and we talk about them and analyze how can we do better or what mistakes were made. I really feel like it’s something that’s an accomplishment and it helps the organization as a whole.”

The Family Advisory Council consists of community members who have experienced Suncoast Hospice services and are willing to serve as advisors to enhance care for patients and families.

Council Facilitator Samantha Hafner, LCSW, a Quality and Service Excellence Advocate at Empath, said the council began meeting in Nov. 2019 to “elevate our patient/family voices in all the things we’re doing in this organization. We’re really trying to make sure the people we serve stay at the forefront of all those decisions we’re making on how we should be doing things.”

Hafner said the council has 11 members who meet every other month via Zoom. She is recruiting new members to replace a few long-serving members and to increase the council’s diversity. Blincoe is one of two men on the council, and there is one African American.

“We want to make sure our community is represented, the people that we serve. That has been a challenge,” Hafner said. “We’re trying to do outreach to other groups.”

Blincoe brings his volunteer experience to the council, but he also witnessed Suncoast care first-hand as he sat bedside of a close friend during her final days.

“My volunteer experience and the experience of being with her, mostly it all had to do with communication between caregivers and the nurses,” he said. “We have a team, and the team is trying to communicate. That’s one of the things we’ve been working hardest on with this council, to have a coordinated effort by everyone on the team knowing what the other person is doing and why.”

Hafner agreed that communication between Suncoast Hospice team members and patients and families is the key topic for the council. So far, the council has made an impact on several written pieces that are shared with families, including the “When to Call Hospice” section of the “Patient Family Guide” and levels of care guidance for the Care Centers.

To become a member of the Family Advisory Council, you must:

  • Be a former Suncoast Hospice patient, family member or caregiver (within the last five years).
  • Be able to commit to bi-monthly meetings and serve consistently for a period of two to three years.
  • Share Suncoast Hospice’s commitment to excellence in patient and family-centered care.
  • Have a positive approach and the ability to share and see different points of view.

Prospective council members will be interviewed and must complete a volunteer services review and a four-hour orientation if they are not already Suncoast Hospice volunteers. Fill out an application at, call Hafner at (727) 523-2137, or email

Learn more about Suncoast Hospice at and the Family Advisory Council at

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