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Quick Guide to Patient advocacy

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

Going into hospital for a planned procedure or because of a sudden illness or injury, can be an overwhelming experience. While some patients prefer to deal directly with hospital staff (medical and administrative), there are situations in which a family member or friend needs to serve as the patient’s advocate. In either case, it is always helpful to have someone with the patient to keep them company, watch over their belongings and make sure that they are as comfortable as possible.

The Role of the Patient Advocate

If you find yourself in the role advocate to someone in hospital, your top priority is to ensure that information flows both ways between the patient and medical staff. The doctors and nurses will ask a lot of questions and give just as many instructions. The patient may not be capable of providing them with what they need. It will be up to the advocate to make sure that accurate and timely information is provided. Likewise, the patient may not feel well enough or even be awake to hear and understand directions given by nurses and doctors. The advocate will be responsible for relaying the information to the patient.

Take Notes

Patient advocates should take note

It is a good idea to take notes whenever a doctor or nurse is speaking. If they don’t mind, ask if you can record the conversation for future reference. When the patient’s up to it, talk about what the medical staff has said. Write down any questions or comments either of you can think of.

If you are unable to be present during a doctor’s visit have the person sitting-in for you take notes, record the conversation or make a video call so you can participate.

When is The Doctor Coming?

It is a good idea to ask the nurse for an approximate schedule of the doctor’s rounds so you can ensure that the patient is not alone when the doctor arrives. Don’t worry about being too pushy or needy. The staff could be very busy, but you are watching over the patient’s health and well-being and they will understand.

Also, because the staff is busy, they are not always able to check-in to make sure their instructions are being followed properly. With you on hand, listening, discussing and understanding what is required, the patient is more likely to comply with their requests and speed their recovery.

When the Patient is a Child

child in hospital

Legally, children must have a guardian with them until they are eighteen years old. It can be a parent or a close family member, as long as someone is there to make sure their needs are being taken care of.

Even a young person in their late teens, that feels they can manage alone, should not be left alone. Having someone with them will prove helpful and beneficial to their recovery.

After Surgery

If the patient is undergoing surgery, it is best to be there as soon as they are in recovery to hear first-hand any post-operative instructions. The patient will be weak, in need of assistance and will welcome a familiar, caring smile. You should try to stay with them at least until they are settled back on the ward and the medical staff tells you it is okay to the leave the patient by themselves.

Final Thought

Being a patient advocate is a lot of responsibility, but it is of inestimable value to the patient’s emotional and physical well-being. Knowing that they are not alone and that someone they trust is ensuring that they receive everything they need, reduces their anxiety and lets that focus solely on the task of getting better.

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