Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What is a Patient Safety Advocate? Helping the Patient Understand Their Care

Patient Safety Advocacy; The Patient Needs to Understand Their Care and Treatment

I have been invited to a few hospitals recently by the patient and / or family because of a similar trend that seems to be growing. The patient has no idea who is in charge of their care. The patient is getting mixed information from different doctors, none who seem to be in charge. Treatment is often contradictory. One doctor may say to get off a medication, another says to stay on it.

I have been asked to come help sort this out. I can see, usually with my first conversation, that there is a disconnect – it’s throughout the whole system. Here is a typical conversation I may have with the first person I turn to, the nurse in charge of the patient:

“Hello, my name is Ilene, I am a friend of (name). (Name) is confused about who her doctor is in charge of her care and has some questions. I’m wondering if you would have some time to talk to her and answer some questions.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t give you that information”.

“I did not ask for the information, I asked you to talk to the patient”.

“Who are you” they would ask again even though I told them I am a friend.
“I can’t give out any information about the patient”. Again I would have to repeat that I don’t want the information. It's for the patient.

Do you see a pattern?

At one visit, at a local nursing home, I had this conversation with the social worker. When she wouldn’t budge, I went to the director of nursing. He called the social worker after hearing my frustration. He couldn’t believe that the social worker wouldn’t budge. So, the nursing director followed me to the patient’s room to assure her that someone would be in the next morning to discuss her care and answer any questions.

Yes, I see a pattern here.

Make sure you use your words appropriately and say what you mean the first time.

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