Learn From a Registered Nurse How to Advocate For Your Self in the Health Care Setting

Are you interested in advocating for yourself in the health care setting? Then you will want to read this article. In this article, we will discuss the fact that only YOU can advocate for your health. Before your next Medical Visit start by having a list of all the medications you take, name, dosage amount and how many times a day you take it. Write down any side effects such as diarrhea or decreased energy or if your appetite has changed. It also helps to note when the side effect occurs, for instance right after you take the medication or later on. Also write down any allergies you have to either food or medication. Keep a copy of this information on your computer and a hard copy in your wallet or purse. You can even down load it to a “thumb or flash drive”, then the physicians office can open it up and print a copy for your medical chart so it will be readily available for the clinician. Lastly, write down any questions you may have for the clinician regarding either medication, treatment or maybe the lab results previously completed. Perhaps you have questions about an upcoming test that you are going to be scheduled for.

Years ago it was very common not to question your health care provider. After all, he was the Doctor right? Not any more, with the advances in health care and access to knowledge and education, it has really become our responsibility to advocate for our health care. If you put this information to use you should feel confident you are receiving the health care you need.

Only you can advocate for your health, as a Registered Nurse I listen to what my patient is telling me. If he or she is saying something is wrong I listen to them, ask questions and help solve the problem. A wise clinician always listens to their patients, I learned this early in my career. Advocating for yourself in health care is essential because you know yourself the best. Even though the clinician has the education to put the information you are providing together, they still need the what only you as the historian can provide. You are the main piece of the puzzle.

It is also important to know what to do if you or a loved one is Hospitalized. If you feel that either something is wrong and needs to be corrected or your loved ones health is deteriorating and it seems like no one is listening to you. Then you need to use what is referred to as the “Chain of Command.” First you would start with the staff RN or LVN that is providing care for your loved one. If they do not resolve the issue, or you feel like you are not being heard or they are too busy, then go to the next person in line. That would be the charge nurse on the floor and so on until someone listens to you.

For example, your loved one needs to have the bed linen changed, the hospital staff is busy. How long do you wait before saying anything? Not long, first let them know. You can start with the CNA or certified nurses aide, if they are too busy then ask the primary care nurse, either RN or LVN. I would think that the staff RN would provide help immediately. As a staff RN I would always help my CNA’s change my patients position or help change their linen, it was a part of my job. I wanted my patients taken care of. If that does not get results the next person in line is the Charge RN on the floor, still nothing? Then you could either ask to speak with the House Supervisor if it is a weekend, or either the Director of Nursing for the facility or administrative person in charge. This could be the Hospital administrator or someone who has the responsibility to take care of customer service issues. Some hospitals even have a specific position for this, a patient service ambassador.

Does this seem like how a hotel or airline would handle problems? In fact, it is similar. Now days you can go online and find out how individual hospitals are rated. Good or bad. Believe me, hospitals are aware of not only customer service issues but the fact that happy people do not sue as often as unhappy people. That is the bottom line. Additionally, I worked for a small community hospital that had a problem with people being exposed to hepatitis through contaminated scopes used for endoscopys. What did they do? They immediately called the media and the chief of staff addressed the issue, reassuring the community that they were acting responsibly by communicating to the public what had happened. I believe that was the smartest thing they could have done. Not only that, I was proud to be a part of a health care system that was responsible enough and cared enough to address the problem first. I know the community appreciated it too. Yes, there were a few people that were upset, understandably so. They were all offered testing and to my knowledge there were not any reports of people contracting hepatitis.

Again, before your next medical visit take the time to write down any questions you have regarding your treatment, medications or something you may need to have clarified. Advocating during your medical visit is vital to your health care. Just as it would be if you were charged for something in error. Most health care clinicians welcome patients that ask questions. It gives the provider an excuse to educate and as a Registered Nurse, I love to educate. Even people that do not want me to educate them, I do, for example smokers. I educate them, then tell them I am a nurse and they usually appreciate it. They usually also agree with me and tell me they know smoking is bad for their health.

You can be assured your receiving the health care you need when you are an active participant. Your concerns should be important to your clinician, if not find a new one! One that will take the time to listen to you, you deserve it. Would you keep the same mechanic if every time you took your car to be repaired he just did what he thought was needed? No! It should not be that way with your health care provider either. Advocating for Yourself in the health care setting is possible and again, usually welcomed. Only you can do what it takes to safeguard your health and the health of your loved ones. So start today, you will feel confident you are receiving the health care you need.

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