what it takes to be an effective patient advocate

The news that a friend or family member will need to undergo a major surgical procedure or be hospitalized for a significant period of time is understandably upsetting. Indeed, you will likely want time to process everything that you’ve heard and examine how you are feeling about this unexpected development.

This time for reflection may not be immediately available, however, if the friend or family member asks you to serve as their primary advocate — or “wingman” — while they are in the hospital. Indeed, the National Patient Safety Foundation indicates those people asked to fill this vital role must not only protect the patient’s best interests, but also “navigate the confusing health care system.”

What then can a patient’s wingman do to help ensure that their loved one emerges safely from their prolonged hospital stay?

Maintain a regular presence: A patient wingman is much more than an honorary title. Rather, it is almost a full-time profession in and of itself, such that a person needs to be a regular presence at the hospital and even take time away from work if necessary. Experts say that’s because vital information is often shared during rounds by physicians or in conversations with nursing staff, such that a patient wingman needs to be around to ensure that they hear everything and make the necessary inquiries.

Be certain to communicate and adjust accordingly: According to experts, the best patient wingmen are able to not only listen, but also communicate with medical staff in an assertive manner. This, of course, doesn’t mean being rude or overly aggressive, but rather tactfully asking the necessary questions and ensuring that everything is as it should be. However, experts note that good patient wingmen also understand that there are times when a perhaps more aggressive approach needs to be adopted, such as when the loved one is not receiving the necessary care or their health is otherwise compromised.

Take detailed notes and ask questions: If the loved one is scheduled to undergo surgery, patient wingmen are advised by experts to ask any question that comes to mind, including making sure that every medical professional is on the same page. While this may seem unnecessary, they point out that surgical errors — operating on the wrong site, wrong side, etc. — are far more common than most people think.

To be continued …

If hospital negligence has caused you or a loved one to suffer, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional about how you can seek the justice that you deserve.

Source: Yahoo! News, “How to be a good patient wingman,” Lisa Esposito, July 24, 2014

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