Thursday, January 7, 2010

Listen and Learn, The Patient Representative

The Patient Representative

What is the Patient Representative supposed to do? Place the “blame” in the right department ? No, I should hope not, but let me back up a bit.

The family of an adult patient calls PULSE of NY. The patient was admitted less than 24 hours ago. Injured from an accident the patient is in ICU and unable to speak.

I meet with the family and we discuss the care and important patient safety information.

The next day I get a call that the patient has bedsores. The family is mostly concerned because they feel they are being “blamed” by the nursing staff for causing them by removing a pillow from the patient’s legs. Already I recognize that there is a misunderstanding.

Being just days before a holiday weekend, I offered to call the patient representative at this local, Long Island hospital. I explained who I was and why I was calling. My concern is to make sure, that an already irate patient or family do not get a list of dead end phone calls to make. Usually, when I get started, I get people who are on vacation, not available or have to find out who will handle this particular situation. All I do is explain how much I know, which may or may not be enough to find the right person, but I do get a person, in the end.

This conversation was somewhat awkward. I explained that there is a patient’s family, who contacted me because we are a grass roots patient safety organization. The family is concerned because they were told the patient has a bedsore. Here is the abbreviated conversation with the patient rep:

PR – When did the patient arrive?

Me – 2 days ago

PR – What was the condition of the patient before he arrived?

Me – He was hit by a car.

PR – Was he generally healthy?

Me – I don’t know

PR – I need this information. Where was he before he arrived did he come from another hospital? We need these questions answered.

I tried to explain that I was only trying to make the connection for the family to the appropriate staff. I need to ask the family to call her and she could do her fact gathering with them. “It seems” I told her “that you are looking to blame someone for the bedsores. We only want to know that they are being addressed”. The communication breakdown became apparent when she defended her questioning.

The listening has to start from within. No one was looking to blame, the family wanted the bedsores gone.

Thank goodness I knew the people in quality and safety at this hospital and was able to reach them. They were able to look into the problem which was taken care of. This is not the first time my experience with a patient representative has been questionable. Yes, there is an answer but it won’t come from within the hospital walls.

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