Friday, October 1, 2010

The "Best" Advocate is not Always the Closest Person to the Patient

Is the "Best" Advocate Always a Close Friend or Family?

I counted over 20 times I was an advocate for a patient in the last three years since I have been doing bedside advocacy work. That’s just going to the hospital with the patient for surgery or a procedure or meeting the family at a hospital to help them navigate the medical "system". The same system that people who work in patient safety say is what fails the patient. “It’s not people, it’s the system”.

Much of my work can, or is done over the phone just helping people speak to the doctor, get answers they need and /or speak up for their safety or the safety of someone they love.

I don’t presently charge for my services because I consider it always a learning experience for me too. It’s how I get to see what is happening and how patients and their families act, and re-act to the care they need and receive.

I am confident. I know my job. I know my limits. I’m respectful but assertive. If I am planning ahead, I can prepare early and work with the patient and the family and friends long before the hospitalization. Sometimes over the phone, sometimes over lunch.

When a dear friend and confident was recently planning surgery, I, of course was going to be the one to take him, to another state and be at his side day and night.

Another friend reminded me, “Aren’t you the one who always says family or good friends may be too close to be a good advocate?” I laughed at the thought that a close friendship, close enough to be like family, would distract me from my “job” as advocate. It’s true, I teach advocacy often enough to know that if I couldn’t do it, I would ask someone else to step up. But I was confident that I wasn’t that close that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate and pay attention to the work I know so well.

Driving up to the hospital I parked the car. My friend about to enter the hospital and have his surgery gently reminded me, “Now I need you to put on your business cap for me”.

I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I didn’t even bring a pen”.

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