Friday, September 24, 2010

Drug Take Back Day

Take Back Drugs September 25, 2010

I was sent some very harsh words by someone I have known through my work for at least ten years. She read my support for the DEA’s drug take back day. It’s an opportunity for people to pack up medications they no longer need or want and bring them to a drop off point where they will be disposed of appropriately.

“Are Americans aware that we have two hands equipped to remove the drugs from our own cabinets and properly dispose in their home on-site receptacles?” She starts off in her e-mail.

Although I am confident that my medications thrown away would make it safely to the dump, I recently learned that just disposing of medications in the trash, may be causing a problem with drug abuse on Long Island. I could see how, if my teenage children, or their friends were drug abusers, they may get into the trash to get them. Even if they are not users, the selling price on the street can help with those late pizza nights, I'm sure.

“Use this wasteful money on a TV commercial re: dangers and a "task list" on how to properly dispose drugs by hand not via 4 tires.” She writes.

She makes a good point but I often see ads describing how to dispose of medications mixed with cat litter or coffee grinds. Anything to make the medications unappealing. But I’m not sure that works either. I’m surprised the environmentalists don’t get angry that we have to use gas to go throw away our medications.

But the fact is, many people do use this service and hundreds of pounds of prescription medications have been returned. In 2009, in New Jersey 9,500 pounds of painkillers, antidepressants and other medications were turned in that would have had a street value of about $34 million.

It’s a reminder that just because we don’t all agree on something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Advocate Tips

Patient Safety Advocate Tips

Being part of someone’s surgery or hospital experience is an honor that I don’t take lightly. When it’s an illness being diagnosed or a long time ailment like a joint replacement, it is a big responsibility to be at the patient’s bedside. As a Patient Safety Advocate, my role is not only the patient’s comfort, but also to be sure policies are being followed and safety standards are being met. Although I can not guarantee the perfect results, I am confident the patient has a better chance when I’m there.

My primary focus is Family Centered Patient Advocacy, including the whole family and even friends and neighbors as part of the patient’s care team. I have heard from patients that they have no one to go with them to the hospital or to doctor’s visits when, in fact, there is a whole community looking for ways to help. Unfortunately, if the patient doesn’t speak up about who they want as their care partner or advocate, family members often appoint themselves and they may not be the best choice.

So, who is the best choice to be a patient’s advocate? Here are some things to think about and not take for granted.

• Someone who can read and write. We often assume that we would know who can read and write, but that’s not always the case. Reading and understanding consent forms, instructions and hospital literature is not as easy as people may think. When a patient is exhausted or overwhelmed, they need to be able to ask their advocate to read and explain information. The advocate should not be struggling to read the information themselves. They need to be able to read quickly, with ease and comprehend what is written.

• Someone who shows empathy. A patient wants to feel sorry for themselves and be the center of attention. Comparing surgeries, giving advice or playing “I can top that” is inappropriate. An advocate should never share their own experience with the patient unless it is specifically asked for.

• An advocate needs to be able to speak up – gently. The advocate must feel comfortable asking a doctor to wash his or her hands, verify medications and ask questions while being respectful of not only the professional staff in their position, but also as a human being.

• Be prepared to MYOB – An advocate does not need to know every detail about the patient. The more information that is revealed, the better the advocate can do their job but, the patient has a right to have privacy with their doctor (this should be encouraged) and keep some things private. The advocate needs to know how to work around private issues such as the patient who has an STD, had an abortion or has no religious affiliation. Some patients do not feel the need to share everything. This needs to be respected.

• An advocate should not try to replace the nurse or doctor. She should never use words “I will explain that to you later”. The advocate needs to build a bridge not put a wedge in it. Be wary when an advocate says to the patient “I’ll explain later”. The nurse or doctor needs to be encouraged to speak directly to the patient so there are no misunderstandings.