PREPARATION FOR THE HOSPITAL: REMOTE ADVOCACY
By Ilene Corina, BCPA, President, Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy
Preparing for a hospital stay now involves more than just the TakeCHARGE, 5 Steps for Safer Healthcare. Now you should make sure your whole family knows how to use Facebook Messenger or other software to communicate by phone, face to face. Many hospitals are keeping families away from the patient during the pandemic, and this means that complete strangers are making all decisions for your family. We can still stay connected through electronic means. But, plan ahead. For years, I have been at the bedsides of people following their surgeries.
As they come out of a groggy state the nurse, with a clip board and now a computer on wheels asks questions, one after another. Do you have any allergies? Do you know your medication? Do you feel safe at home? Do you smoke? Usually these same questions have been asked many times before. With the family at the patient’s side, they could help with the answers. Family would get water, dab their head with cool cloths and serve the patient ice chips. The family could get another pillow or blanket. The family could get someone to help the patient use the bathroom (to help avoid falls), write down questions the patient might have, and write down the answers the nurse or doctor might offer.
Now, nothing. The same people we trust to wash their hands, who often don’t, are the same people who are now overworked, overburdened and overstretched and now also taking care of your family member on their own without your support.
Before a patient had surgery recently, we practiced Facebook messenger. She was sure to pack her phone, her charger and even an extension cord to be sure we were at all times connected. Just before surgery the patient held her phone up to the surgeon, who was all scrubbed up, and asked me, “Any questions?” I asked how long the surgery was expected to take. We were done until we reconnected after the surgery. I slept with the phone next to me, still connected, and she did the same. I kept my camera covered and on mute so I would not disturb her. The patient kept her camera on, resting on the tray table, and left the microphone on all night. I heard the nurse come in at 3:00 AM to give pain medication and asked through the phone “Who is the patient you are looking for and what is the medication you are giving her?” And when the patient woke up in the morning and said they never gave her pain medication, I was able to tell her they had. If the patient needed to go to the bathroom and no one came to help, I could call the nurse’s station. When the doctor made the very early rounds and talked about giving the patient “pain medication” I asked if it would be an opioid, something I knew the patient would rather not take when her pain was not that bad. The doctor said it was.
Staying connected can work, but plan ahead and practice using the services until you’re comfortable with a system that works for you, especially if the person being hospitalized is older, sicker or not familiar with the electronic services available.