Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What is a Patient Safety Advocate? A Good Listener

Patient Safety Advocacy; Listen!

Listening can sometimes be difficult. We often think of ourselves as a good listener because we are physically present when someone speaks. But being a good listener and a patient advocate are very different.

As an advocate, we need to really listen and hear what the patient is saying and even feeling. When hospitalized, it is important to always have a notebook handy. Taking notes when the patient says something like “I haven’t eaten since noon yesterday” you will have that information available if the patient is resting and the nurse or doctor come in and ask “when was the last time the patient ate”?

When the doctor comes in to speak with the patient, always ask if you can stay. This helps keep the patient in control. Plan on taking notes as the doctor and the patient speak. The doctor will ask if there are any more questions. Ask the doctor to come back if he or she will be in the building for a little bit longer. When they leave the room, you will probably say that you wish you asked about………………. Write it down. When the doctor sticks her head back in you will be ready with any additional questions.

Listen for the patient’s worries and fears. Try to never say “don’t worry” it’s confusing to hear those words. “How can I help you to not worry?” or “what will make you feel better?” can be words that are not only more soothing, but more productive.

The patient may have underlying fears that you aren’t aware of. Help the patient to find them and address them if they can. The worries may not be about the surgery itself but may in fact be about the bills, children at home or lost time at work. By saying “don’t worry” you aren’t helping to address any of that.

Finally, listening is also about hearing what the patient says. Don’t push the patient to eat or drink if this is not your role. Be careful not to treat an adult patient like a child. When the patient says I’m not hungry and refuses to eat, this information goes back to the nurse or doctor. Usually sipping water or juice is fine. By pushing a patient to eat is to satisfy your own need to feel productive, useful or even in control. Be careful to not cross that line. You are there for the patient’s comfort and safety and not to be in control of the patient.

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