Nurses are taught from the very beginning that the most important aspect of our job is advocating for our patients. In reflection of my experiences on both sides of the spectrum, I would like to shed some insight and advice for those navigating the healthcare field.
Ask Questions. Healthcare providers are rushed. Many times they have a “general speech” when educating or explaining things to their patients. To be fair, it’s not their fault. Providers have to get the main point across to a lot of patients in a small amount of time. To ensure nothing is forgotten, it’s often “scripted”.
Even as a nurse, I can feel confused or unsure about things. When this happens it is extremely important to ask questions. Ask the embarrassing questions. Ask for clarification and ask for understanding. Anytime a healthcare provider appears annoyed or distracted when I ask for more information I know that he/she is not the right healthcare provider for me.
I worked for Novant Health for many years. They have an “Ask Me 3” protocol for patients. What is my main problem? What do I need to do? Why is it important for me to do this? I always loved this. It promotes engagement between healthcare provider and patient. And lets face it, if you understand the answers to these questions you are more likely to be compliant with your course of care.
Be Honest. Healthcare providers don’t ask questions about your background or lifestyle for shits and giggles. They do it because it can impact the course of your care.
I am a smoker. Am I proud of this? No. But it is important information for my Healthcare Provider to know.
Many medications interact with alcohol and drugs. Even herbal drugs – which many people neglect to share with their healthcare providers.
Be Kind, but Be Firm. Your healthcare provider is there to get you through some of the toughest times of your life. Showing kindness and appreciation makes them feel like they are doing their job in making a difference. Just because you are kind doesn’t mean that you can’t be firm about your expectations and direction of your care.
Make yourself part of your healthcare team. Who knows your body better than you? No one. I encourage everyone I come in contact with to engage with their healthcare providers. Do your research. No, google won’t replace a medical degree, but it will help you understand and feel involved in the process. I can remember trying every intervention possible during my active ulcerative colitis years and I came across an article showing a correlation between quitting smoking and ulcerative colitis flares. I mentioned it to my gastroenterologist and he ordered me a nicotine patch to try. Did it work? No, but it made me feel like we were working as a team to try to make me better. It showed he respected me. It made me trust him even more.
Speak up, but don’t be rude. Healthcare associated infections are real. Very real. If you notice a provider not washing their hands or using proper protective equipment please speak up. I can assure you that this is not intentional 99% of the time, but kind reminders go a long way in protecting you and other patients.
Ask for alternatives. While getting ready for discharge, my Doctor informed me I would have a wet to dry dressing that needed to be changed twice a day – to my bum. Home Health does not provide dressing changes this frequently and I did not feel comfortable with my family doing these changes for obvious reasons. When I spoke up about my concerns my Surgeon decided to change the dressing changes to an iodaform dressing… where I would pull a portion of the dressing out and cut an inch or two a day. This was something I could do on my own.
This can often apply to medications. Sometimes there are not other options, but many times there are. Don’t be afraid to ask to explore alternative options when it comes to your care.
You don’t have to be Stoic. When things hurt, speak up. You do not have to endure ridiculous amounts of pain and suffering when there are solutions available. After my surgery I hurt… I was ordered pain medication every three hours and the nurse told me I had to wait 30 minutes because it wasn’t time yet for my next dose. It is OK to ask them to contact your provider to get your orders changed – either for a stronger medication, more frequent intervals, or even for an additional intervention to assist with pain control.
Get to know those who care for you, and those you care for. When you create a more personal interaction between provider and patient it helps develop trust and respect. You don’t have to know life stories, but showing an interest in the human behind the title (provider or patient) develops a rapport that is like no other.
Follow directions. They are not suggestions, they are for your safety. Your healthcare provider is not telling you not to eat or drink anything after midnight for the hell of it. It is imperative to prevent aspiration pneumonia. And this goes for many instructions given to you from your healthcare providers… there is always a reason, one that is in your best interest, as to why they are giving you specific instructions. If you want to know why, ask.
Stay Positive. A positive mindset during a traumatic experience can make a huge difference in your recovery. Positive vibes sent out come back two fold.
I hope these tips will help you when you are navigating the healthcare field. What experiences have you had? What advice would you give?