Saturday, May 28, 2016

Who are We to Advocate For?

Advocates for Patients

Part three of the FamilyCentered Patient Advocacy Training came with enthusiasm from the group.  By the third evening, though tired from a long day’s work, each participant seemed glad to be there and were now getting to know each other.  A mix of classwork, conversation and lecture, each shared experience with the group is based on truth.  With over 700 hours at the bedside of patients and hundreds of hours in the past 20 years of my patient safety work in the community, there are more than enough stories to share and learn from.  

To be respectful of the people who have shared their stories, or who have allowed me to be part of their hospitalization, it is very important to me that each story and experience is given the utmost respect.  I often remind the group that this is personal, and we are learning from real experiences.

This allows for during role play sudden, unexpected changes that a patient safety advocate must be ready for.  If all patient experiences went well, and there was no need for a partner at the bedside, than medical errors probably would not be the third leading cause of death in the country.  The reason more isn’t done, in my opinion, is because there are so many different ways that things can go wrong.  Advocates, especially patient safety advocates, need to be ready.

In this past session, a young man who missed the first two classes and came over an hour late to the last class wants to be an advocate.  We already went over almost everything we were going to - including ethics.  Our ethics is based on the Alliance ofProfessional Health Advocates (APHA)  Code of Ethics.   

In the last class, we discuss the case of a young transgender man who was hospitalized and the situation turns to the possibility of sharing a hospital room with a non-transgender person.   I explain at the beginning of this session that we may not agree with how someone lives, but professional (some in the group will not become professional advocates) need to be respectful that they are in need of services and we do not discriminate (Ethics #9). In this part of the class, the advocates-in-training work this out.

When the class was over and everyone left, the young man came to me with an older female friend who also took the class and who he obviously looked up to and shared his concern over the experience of a transgender person having the right to choose his room.  (There are no quotes here-just my memory of the conversation).

The young man (possibly just out of high school) told me about his long term illness, on-going hospitalizations and concern that his rights might be violated were he to be forced to share a room with a transgender person.  Why are they the only ones’ who have rights he asked me repeatedly?

As a young black man, I tried to use that as an example.  Would a white man be able to say he did not want to be in the room with a black man, Asian man or Hispanic man? His friend, the older woman said that was different because in a hospital, patients are exposed and may be naked.  They also seemed offended that I would use this comparison.

I realized that after a discussion, I was not going to change their mind so I decided to listen and become educated.  What was this they were so against?  Something I could not possibly understand in the few short minutes.  I was grateful to come face to face with someone who shared their views which were not mine.  Whether or not I believed in the same principles as them.  We all walk this earth together and there are people with different views.

I asked if they would be willing to be an advocate for a transgender person and they both said “no”.

Then I had to think about that question for myself.  Would I be willing to be an advocate for them, if they wanted their room changed because of who was in the next bed.

I welcome your feedback but please say who you are for an on-going discussion.

Next class starts August 3, 5:30 PM
Register Here

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