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How Far Should You Take Patient Advocacy

Post Published: 20 June 2011
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Category: Guest Bloggers, Patient Advocacy
This post currently has 11 responses. Leave a comment

I once had a CT Scan at Mink Radiology with an iodine IV. When we reached the “Insert IV now” portion of the procedure, while inserting the needle into my vein, something was wrong, it didn’t feel right. I told the technician that he needed to remove the needle immediately and choose a different vein. He didn’t listen to me. I exclaimed that I knew my veins better than he did. Again, he ignored me. I turned my head and saw a river of blood dripping from my veins and staining the floor. I also noticed that he wasn’t — wait for it — wearing sterile gloves.

Sit with that for a moment.

His excuse for not using gloves, “This is a new IV and I’m not used to it yet”. Appalling. Disgraceful. Unacceptable. He should never have been given permission to oversee that procedure until he knew how to do it WHILE using sterile gloves. He put us both at risk. My health should never be at risk due to negligence. To say that I was livid is an understatement. There is no part of that experience that is tolerable. He should have been suspended until he learned how to do this procedure correctly. Shame on Mink Radiology for allowing this practice to begin with.

The question I pose today is how far should we take our patient advocacy? Should it begin and end with doctors? In my opinion, it never stops and it begins with every medical transaction, be it an assistant, phlebotomist or technician, and everything in between.

Advocating for ourselves isn’t about making waves or excuses to behave badly. Rather, it’s  business. And an opportunity to assert our self-worth in a professional manner. Our health is paramount to our survival. How we are treated matters. If someone isn’t listening, make them listen. If a non-emotional, professional exchange isn’t working, perhaps it’s time to walk away. While we might be afraid to walk away, maybe we should. There is nothing wrong with saying, “This relationship or this procedure isn’t working for me. Thank you for your time. Good-bye”.

For example, when I was speaking with one of my doctor’s medical assistant’s. Before I could state what I needed or wanted, she interrupted and said, “I know. I know. I know. We do a thousand of these procedures.” Before she could hang up, I diplomatically stated, “You don’t have ESP, you can’t know what’s going on inside my head. I need to ask my question and I need you to hear me. Do you think you can do that?”. Of course, before hanging up on me, she was irate evidenced by her silence. I didn’t care. I asked my question. She answered. While hanging up on me, I thanked her for hearing me.

What a shame, when people’s egos get in the way of our medical care. Still. We press on. We fight for ourselves. We are worth fighting for. Even if we ruffle a few feathers along the way, good for us. We’ve put our needs first. In my opinion, be professional, be diplomatic and be assertive. This is a business relationship. We are paying for a service. If we hired a carpet cleaner and the carpets weren’t cleaned to our satisfaction, would we speak up or let it go? We’d likely speak up.

Circling back to the story that was the impetus for this post, I emailed the CEO of Mink Radiology. I called all of my doctors.  I made sure that they were informed and that I didn’t need to undergo any immediate blood work.

The more we speak up, the more we take care of ourselves. In addition, we pay it forward, so to speak. Our speaking up ensures that patients that come after us might have a better experience.

What are your thoughts?

Love,

Katie

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11 Responses to “How Far Should You Take Patient Advocacy”

  1. Frances says:

    The hardest battle of all for me with my thyroid problems and Graves is trying to tiptoe around the health care professionels needs. So afraid to clip thier ego’s or I will not get the care I need. I can’t even begin to list the bumbling and fumbling mistakes that have been made. After a hemithyroidectomy and eight years of suffering no one even bothered to inform me I had Graves! It’s like it was not even my right to know.

  2. Melissa Travis says:

    I am so gutted and outraged on your behalf. I cannot even form a coherent sentence. I’m so glad you wrote here but I cannot see straight right now.

    I’m SO SO SO sorry this happened.

    ugh.
    x
    M

    • Melissa, I had the exact same reaction. Katie, I’m so glad you shared this story with us. THANK YOU for reminding us that we have to keep fighting for our health, even if it’s a battle we shouldn’t have to be fighting.

      xoxo

  3. Heather says:

    I am still trying to figure out how it is legal for the medical community to demand payment for service, when at times we have not been serviced: but ignored, bullied, made to think we are crazy, argued with, and just plain denied things we have spoken up about. In ANY OTHER PROFESSION, you have recourse, you can refuse payment until the service is performed to your satisfaction, but not here. I am just waiting that day to come. If you don’t treat me fair and honestly, obeying the Hippocratic Oath you swore to, I don’t owe you anything but a farewell. Here is the agreement you made when you became a doctor, so why don’t you follow it?

    “I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
    I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
    I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
    I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.”

    Sorry it is kinda off topic of other people who are not doctors, but it kinda applies to all of them 🙂

    Someday. . . until then, Thank you Katie for helping us gather our voices and to be heard 🙂

    • Linda says:

      Sounds like I could have written that….I got out of my primary’s circus as of TODAY! Blessings! And thank goodness I do have a great DO to help me with my nodules!!

  4. Dear Thyroid says:

    Frances;

    I’m so sorry that you didn’t find out you had Graves’ until 8 years into your diagnosis. I’m absolutely appalled and heartbroken for you.

    How do you think we can move forward and advocate for ourselves versus tip-toe’ng around the egos and issues? I ask because I think this is something we all face and deal with. Because we deserve the very best care, how do we ensure that we get it?

    Katie-

  5. Dear Thyroid says:

    Melissa – Thanks, swees.

    Thanks for sharing your sentiments. I just got off the phone with one of my new docs who sent me there and he literally talked to me like I was a freakin’ nut case.

    Worry if you want to. You don’t need to be tested for anything. Call Mink and ask them if you should be tested for something. It’s not standard for technicians to use sterile gloves when administering IVs.

    I didn’t let that deter me. For me, the lesson was/is, keep fighting for what we need and deserve.

    xo

  6. Dear Thyroid says:

    “reminding us that we have to keep fighting for our health, even if it’s a battle we shouldn’t have to be fighting.”

    You’re so right, Joanna. We have to keep at it.

    xo

  7. Dear Thyroid says:

    Heather;

    Not only ISN’T that off-topic, I agree with you times a thousand. you’re so right! Every other profession has recourse. Even though we can take legal action and we can hock organizations to hold doctors accountable, too many of us don’t.

    Let’s hope it stops sooner than later.

    Loved what you wrote.

    Bravo.
    xo

  8. OH. MY. COW. Dang girl. I’m …… yeah.

    You sort of implied this when you talked about the gal on the phone, but I’ll flat out say it – we deserve to be treated well by *everyone.* Even the receptionist or whoever books the appointment!

    As a Health Coach who specializes in helping women with fibromyalgia, and as someone who has her own host of issues: fibro, Hashimoto’s, Raynaud’s, etc…. I take this stuff very seriously. I’m in a position where I can do a lot of referring of clients to providers. I don’t take that position lightly. It’s one of the key things that I *want* to do for my clients because I know first-hand how hard it is to find someone good!

    When I’m working with a client & she asks me about whether or not she should change doctors, to me that’s a sign that she should. We need to trust our guts. If you’re not comfortable for some reason, look for someone new. Most recently, I had a client switch physicians because she couldn’t get in to see her doctor for 2 months between appointments. When you’ve got chronic stuff going on, that’s just too long. For a one-off specialist appointment, maybe, but not for your primary doc.

    Recently, I had a situation where I felt like my doc was on her agenda and wasn’t listening to what I needed. That’s never good. We have to be our own advocates. First and foremost, that means having someone who will listen to you! Having a doctor who isn’t listening to you ALWAYS means it’s time to find a new doctor!

    I’m so glad you’re talking about your experience!

  9. Courtney says:

    Thanks for posting this.

    When I had my thyroidectomy, the IV line failed during the surgery and I woke up before they were finished and this had consequences all down the line as I went into recovery, into my room, etc., and of course, there was the psychological fallout as well.

    I complained to everyone who would listen and filed a complaint with the state medical board. They later told me that “unfortunately, general anesthesia can be traumatizing” while telling me the anesthesiologist had done nothing wrong. Obviously he did do something wrong, but I had no proof beyond what I remembered and my medical records were clean, no record of what I remembered or what I heard people saying around me. Big shock!

    Just having the anesthesiologist investigated was a panacea. I’m sure he had to pay a lawyer and spend a lot of time making this go away. I thought, perhaps that would make him more careful with his work in the future.

    This was a hard lesson: none of these health professionals are looking out for you. They are looking out for themselves, and we have to live with what they do or don’t do.

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