Monday, December 14, 2009

What is a Patient Safety Advocate? Quiet!

Patient Safety Advocacy; Quiet!

A dear, long time friend of mine told me her husband was going to have surgery. It was pretty serious surgery that meant many days in the hospital recuperating. Any time anyone spends many days in the hospital, we can assume it’s pretty serious. Insurance companies just don’t pay to keep people in the hospital unless it’s really needed.

I offered, like I offer most people I know, to help. I would be her eyes and ears for her when she’s not there, I explained. I would check that he’s getting the correct medication and that he is comfortable and cared for by the staff. “Oh no” she told me, “I’m a bull”. I told her that I am not a bull. I become a partner with the medical staff. She backed down and explained that she speaks up for her husband. Demands he gets what he needs and is not afraid to make waves.

More power to her.

She called me the night of surgery at 6:00 pm. She was home, exhausted. Her husband was fine and resting at the hospital – alone. She decided to go home so he can rest. I bit my tongue and said a prayer.

This is where advocacy starts.

Being a patient’s advocate is not about talking to the patient. As an advocate, it is important to be able to sit quietly and read (find your own light not over the patient’s bed), or be quiet doing something else. The patient MUST rest. It may mean sitting outside in the hallway and follow the nurse or doctor in when they arrive. The patient should never feel that they have to talk to you or entertain you. There is no reason that family or friends should visit the patient soon after surgery. This is an important time for the patient to rest. The advocate can ask the patient about screening calls so the patient doesn’t have to talk. Now, with texting available, the patient can respond when they feel well enough to but still read their messages as they come in.

When the patient sleeps, the advocate may need to make sure the patient isn't rubbing or scratching under bandages following surgery. Keep the patient’s hands clean with antibacterial gel if possible.

Wipe down the bed rail with antibacterial cloths when the nurse leaves or the TV remote or nurses bell after each use.

These things can all be done and should be done in the quiet without disturbing the patient.

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