Nurses & Patient Advocacy
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I did not know the correct information to use when my wife was being discharged from the hospital. My Patient Advocate provided what I needed to get the outcome I needed.
I’m sure we would all agree that nurses have valuable skills. It’s no secret that we can often dress a wound better than the physician who placed the order. Patient advocacy and education are also skills we should be practicing and improving whenever possible.
There’s a right and a wrong way to speak up on behalf of a patient.
Allowing a family member to overhear that Dr. Brown has not ordered enough pain medication is not the route that should be taken. But a word placed on the patient’s behalf directly to the physician might just be successful. Something like, “Dr. Brown, your patient seems so uncomfortable. Do you think that Percocet is really holding him?” doesn’t challenge his order directly and might just find him willing to change.
In the days of medical malpractice insurance and health care debates, the concept of patient advocacy might conjure up images of some sweet little old lady on an infomercial asking if you had a headache after a recent visit to the hospital.
Patient advocacy seems to have taken on a life of its own. However,in the simplest of terms, advocacy actually is support.
someone has said that our “Procedures” are communication and listening.
After working in the nursing profession for more than 20 years and as a patient advocate for more than 10 years, I believe a nurse is first and foremost the ultimate patient advocate.
Nurses form the primary system of support for patients. From logistical issues — such as smoothing a patient’s transition from registration and treatment in the Emergency Department through being admitted to the hospital unit — to the medical aspect of triaging and assessing the patient’s health condition, to providing emotional support to both the patient and any frightened family members, nurses must cover all bases of advocating for their patients with excellence and ease.
Emergency rooms are busy, noisy and — let’s be honest — often uncomfortable. However, the nurse can make the experience a positive outcome.
At this point of the patient’s experience, communication and education become most important. Patients need to understand the tests and procedures the physicians are ordering. They need to be aware of the time it will take for these tests or procedures to be completed, and they need to be educated on the rationale for these tests and procedures. Then the patient need to know when they will find out the results.
The Patient advocate can act as a or interpreter, helping the patient by speaking to them in terms they can understand. The Advocate turns a physician’s direction to “keep the patient NPO” into “the patient is to not eat or drink (nothing by mouth). Nurses who are knowledgeable can help relax and encourage a patient and family members.How a patient does physically often is determined by what they think about their circumstances, and whether they believe they will be OK.
Patient Advocates can help to translate their circumstances into understandable and acceptable terms, patients would not only be confused, but terrified. So not only does the well-being of a patient rest in our hands in terms of medical care, but in terms of the psychological and emotional care as well.
This kind of responsibility is daunting, and perhaps should intimidate us a little bit. People’s lives are literally in our hands.
Advocates must be strong for their patients but not so strong that they lose our capacity to empathize.
As advocates our goal is continue to advance in our capacity to be selfless, sacrificial systems of support for those who called us into the medical profession in the first place: our patients.