Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Making a Choice

Choosing a Hospital or Doctor

A common question I hear is “How do I choose the best doctor”?  It’s not an easy question to answer.  Choosing a doctor or hospital is a very personal choice.  It may be important for you to be a close distance from your doctor because travel is an issue or that you go very often to see your doctor.  Some people want someone they can talk to, feel listened to and are just generally very comfortable with.   You may want someone who specializes in certain areas or choose a surgeon who has done the procedure numerous times (but how were the outcomes?)  I will hear that the “best” doctor is actually a really nice person – since we really don’t know what makes someone the best at anything.  It is, after all a personal choice. 

By checking websites such as www.nydoctorprofile.com you can learn if the doctor has done any outstanding work in their field, where they went to school and how long they are practicing.  You can learn if the doctor has been disciplined by the state or about their malpractice settlements, if there were over three in ten years.  But there is no way of knowing if there are pending lawsuits or disciplinary charges.

I was recently asked how someone would choose between two hospitals.  The caller had a hospital he was ready to use for surgery.  He said someone questioned his choice.  I would not give my opinion since even at the “best” hospitals, things can go wrong.  A patient can get an infection, the wrong surgery can be performed or the patient may receive the wrong medication at any hospital. 

What actually needs to be addressed is what we can do, as patients and as family members, to help ensure the best outcome.

This link to a Quick Guide to Patient Advocacy explains the simplest steps family or friends of the patient can do such as listening carefully, writing down questions in advance and insisting the doctor answers so you can understand.  Don’t allow a doctor to rush you and share accurate information freely.  Be honest about lifestyle and medications, vitamins and supplements.  Understanding the policy’s and safety practices when entering the hospital, and knowing that they are being followed, is an important way to help ensure safe care.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Religion in the Way

Patient Safety and Religion??

It hit me like a ton of bricks, right out of left field. I opened an e-mail early in the morning to find that a woman who has been working for us for a few weeks quit when she learned of PULSE’s work with the transgender community. Her letter read “I must say that while I support the overall mission of PULSE of NY, as I a born again Christian, I do not support homosexuality and transgender issues. To do so now by continuing to work on various projects with the organization, would be to go against the principles of my Christian faith.”

I was curious, and asked what her Christian faith had to do with the human right to patient’s safety, which is, after all what PULSE is about. She explained in thoughtful detail “By working to push for equal rights in healthcare without taking a stand against it, I am very well giving a green light to something I don't agree with”. Her letter was kind and gentle, but still very confusing to me. In our exchange I told her I don’t agree with drug abuse and abusers but will fight for their right to safe, quality care.

 In her note she replied “I also see this as a means of supporting the alternative lifestyle in general. I will offer assistance to anyone and help them receive support and guidance who is repentant and wants to change, but I am against supporting the practice to continue on with that behavior.”

I was sad to lose her and then felt anger that people hide their prejudice behind religion. I felt the passion for the work I (we) do in patient safety is not as important as …..the bible? This wouldn’t have become a religious discussion. I know my beliefs and wouldn’t dare discuss them with people I don’t know but this was deeper than religion. What if a nurse or doctor, resident about to do surgery or a paramedic about to save a person’s life feels this way? Would saving them or healing them, go against their “Christian faith”? Would treating a homosexual or transgender patient in the hospital be giving them the “green light” to continue “that behavior”?

I was an advocate for a transgender man having a hysterectomy some years ago in a Catholic hospital. Though the staff at this facility obviously lacked sensitivity training and some common sense, most of the people there were kind and gentle. They may not have even been Christian workers. But what if I wasn’t there. Could it have been different? Will I always wonder now if people bring their prejudice to work?

 I expect that medical professionals are caring and take an oath to help and heal but it has put a fear in me that we cannot assume everyone thinks that way and this is another reason to be sure everyone has an advocate with them in the hospital.