As a nurse advocate, I recently returned to taking clients on in my practice. My role is to help coordinate care, break down barriers, and find the resources my patients need to address their healthcare needs. I work with all members of the healthcare team, the insurance company and others who people encounter as patients and caregivers.
I returned after a life-changing experience where I was the patient. The one main takeaway from my experience is “how hard it is to be a patient.” As I emerged from my journey, I decided to return to active practice and help those in need, especially those who had limited resources and needed help to advocate for themselves. What I found since returning is that being a nurse advocate, a case manager, or any of the other titles professionals who do this type of work call themselves is that it is HARD WORK. The healthcare system is frustrating, challenging, unfriendly, expensive, and dangerous if there is not someone to advocate for the patient.
While working with a man with liver disease recently, a nurse in one of his doctors office asked me why I was involved? I stopped for a minute as her question took me by surprise. Why was I involved? After a minute, I told her I was involved to help the patient coordinate his care, set up and attend his appointments, and help him understand his care plan. I was involved as his son lived out of state and could not go to the various appointments with him, so after each doctors visit, I call/send him and email to give him an update, so he was aware of what was going on with his dad. I am ‘the boots on the ground person’ to help the man and his son during a complex time.
After I finished my explanation, she said, oh, ‘I never knew people could have someone like you work with them.’ I replied, yes, this field is becoming more and more popular because people realize they need help as the healthcare system is complex, fragmented, and built for the healthcare system – not the people who use it.
I work with those who are sick, have complex cases and who have a hard time making an appointment, trying to understand what each of their doctors are saying as their schedules don’t give them time to sit and get to know their patient. I am the one who says’, ‘Doctor can you stay for a minute while Mr. X asks you a question.’ I am involved to give the patient and their family members a voice – in a system where many don’t have the time to listen. I ask the patient, the family what THEY want and help them communicate that information.
I am involved to assist one person at a time, navigate a complex and fragmented healthcare system when they are not feeling well and don’t have the energy to fight a system that is not designed to really help them. This is why I am involved!
As I have shared in previous Blog Posts, EVERYONE can use an advocate when they are thrust into the complex world of healthcare. Here are two posts that you can click on to learn more about Why am I Involved!
Here’s Why Everyone Needs an Advocate to Avoid Medical Errors and A Real-Life Example: Every Patient Needs an Advocate
If you are an advocate and have been asked this question, how did you answer? Let me know in the comment section.
If you are a patient or a caregiver….have you worked with a nurses advocate? Was it a good experience? Let me know by putting a comment in the comment section. Thanks in advance! Have a good week!
OMG – I just had the same thing happen to me when taking a client to an endoscopy. She had complications from her second COVID-19 Vaccination and ended up with emergency gall bladder surgery, 2 hospitalizations, and 3 emergency room visits. Plus she was not being able to eat for 3 months straight. My first thought was to say, “How can you even ASK me that question?” knowing what the patient had been through. But, then I realized it was an opportunity for me to educate and inform. So I patiently explained the many benefits of having an Advocate and simply said, “I’m here to bridge the gap and make YOUR job easier.” Honestly, EVERYONE needs an advocate … even Advocates, too !!
The advocacy role cannot/ should not be understated. When my clients introduce me as their advocate and “voice” I noted a distinct change in the attitude of healthcare providers and workers. It is almost as though my being present levels the “playing field” and patient is treated more like an individual. I am saddened to think what it might be like for them if I wasn’t there–I am glad I am.