Saturday, April 3, 2021

So, You Think You are Helpful


Now that there is a COVID-related policy in many hospitals and nursing homes that families can’t be with their loved ones, I’m going to touch on a topic that may make many people angry – but I expect that, deep down inside, many of you will agree.  Maybe, just maybe, you aren’t the best person to support a loved one in the hospital.

It is often assumed by family members that they need to be there to support their sick loved one who is hospitalized. That’s not always the case. I have been with people who are hospitalized and have been asked to keep a husband or wife away. They may be bossy, loud and feel it is their job to demand everything their family member wants or needs without thinking of the nurse’s position or the other patients.

You may just imagine hearing a father raising his voice to a nurse: “I said, my daughter needs her pain medication!”  There is no reason to think a nurse doesn’t want to get a patient pain medication. Yelling at a nurse usually doesn’t help.

A chatty family member or friend who thinks a patient wants to be entertained instead of sleeping can often not only aggravate the patient, but also roommates who need to rest. If you are visiting the patient, have you discussed how you might be helpful?  When the patient says “I want to ask the doctor or nurses about………….” grab a notebook and start writing these questions, thoughts and ideas so when the doctor comes in, you have the questions, and any new symptoms, ready. Will a visiting family member be polite and check medications,
answer questions to the nurse if you’re resting? Will they repeat back instructions, get information in writing, and work on the discharge early in the care plan? Will they ask who each person entering the room is, and why they are there? Will they make sure staff check a patient’s ID and have the correct patient?  Will they wipe down doorknobs and the TV remote and bed rail after someone touches them? You may be reading in other blog posts or articles that the patient should be doing this, but that’s not always the case and they may feel that being their own advocate can be confrontational. It can be, and that goes for the family too. Practicing to be a caregiver, support person or advocate is important to be good at what you do.  There is more to this than just being there.

I have spent thousands of hours with patients and their family members in the hospital which is why I believe that training that the Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy provides is crucial to anyone who will be a “guest” of a patient.  When you hear someone say that they got what their loved one needed because they are a great advocate and yelled at everyone until they were heard, think again.


Saturday, February 6, 2021

She Had No Intention to Listen


A woman on the phone asked if the class that was being offered would help her handle the terrible treatment her husband received at the hospital recently.  I wasn’t sure how to respond so I asked her what she is looking for the class to address.  The Family Centered Patient Advocacy classes we are offering at Pulse Centerfor Patient Safety on three Thursday evenings in March include hospital policies and procedures, communication skills, understanding and avoiding bias (conscious or unconscious) and other information to help a family member or friend become an advocate for a patient and even help someone decide if being an independent patient advocate is for them as a possible career.

It seems her husband, who was very ill, also had disabilities that made it difficult for him to care for himself.  She did not want to leave him at the hospital without her but she was not permitted to stay at the hospital with him because of COVID-19.   Her voice was raised, she was obviously angry, she used words that were not helpful in our conversation and every once in a while, she would take a breath and ask, “so will these classes help?”  Not waiting for an answer, she would continue in a rage about how terrible this hospital staff treated her.

I was able to get out the question “have you thought about talking to someone at the hospital?”  That started a whole new blast of anger. 

I could start practicing my empathy and my active listening skills but truthfully, I didnt see this conversation continuing.  So, I just listened and when she asked for the fourth or fifth time “so will these classes help”?  I just responded “no, I don’t think so, best of luck” and that was the end of our conversation.

If you want to join us, we would love to have you, but we won’t be solving past problems and communication plays a big role in Family Centered Patient Advocacy.  Communication such as active listening, empathy is a skill that people must want to learn and practice.  Some people want to play an instrument but don’t do it well and may never make beautiful music. They may think they are a musician but others cringe when they hear the sound.  Some people may want to advocate and communicate, but they may never make it without practice.  If you want to learn and practice, I’m happy to help – after the program, we can practice together.  Give me a call and register here:

FCPA Class - Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy