Healthcare in this country is so freaking expensive! Whether you have insurance or not, I’m sure you know how ridiculously expensive it is to be treated in the Emergency room. So in this post, I hope I can empower you to advocate for the care that you need, want and deserve.
I’m not saying you have to be pushy, nasty or demanding (although sometimes that works), but I do think that you should feel comfortable expecting a certain level of standard care. And if you don’t get the care you want, say something! Lord knows you’re paying enough for it!
A few months back Eric ended up in the ER. He was having difficulty breathing and after a lot of coaxing and friendly “threats” from his sister and I (i.e. “people die from pneumonia” and “I don’t want to wake up next to a dead man”) we were able to convince him to go. We arrived around 10pm, which was great timing because the ER waiting room was practically empty.
We were escorted to a room very quickly and stayed there for a better part of an hour before a nurse and doctor finally arrived. The nurse did some blood draws and gave the bf some IV steroids to open up his lungs. 5 hours, and EKG, chest x-ray and several amusing/horrifying stories later…see below, we found out that the bf had the flu.
Asking For What You Want From Healthcare Professionals: 5 Lessons Learned…
Based on real life experiences in our local ER…brought to you from your favorite ease dropper…me (bf was fast asleep in his comfy hospital bed, so I had nobody to talk to.)
First Scenario-Bed 19.
- Bed 19 was the bf. When the nurse came in the room to do his blood-work, I was reading and not really paying attention. I don’t mind blood and needles, but also feel bad when I see people in pain, so reading was a good distraction. When I looked up I noticed the nurse wiping some blood off bf’s arm with a cotton square. No big deal, except for the fact she wasn’t wearing gloves! I immediately mentioned this to bf who didn’t seemed bothered or phased. I mean, come on it’s 2104, we all know that you need to wear gloves when you’re touching body fluids, especially when you’re a nurse working in the ER!
Lesson: Don’t feel weird about asking staff to follow universal precautions!
If they are touching blood or body fluids they should be wearing gloves, period! If they aren’t, they’re putting themselves, you and others at risk. Don’t be shy to ask them to wash their hands or put on gloves before they touch you. Who knows who (or what) they touched before they came into the room.
Second Scenario-Bed 17.
- Bed 17 was an elderly woman who feel down 5 stairs while hosting a party at her home. Her daughter and several of her daughter’s friends accompanied her to the ER. Things were quiet at first, but the woman started experiencing intense pain. Her daughter asked the nurse to call the MD to get some pain meds. 30 minutes later, no meds and the daughter was getting upset. As staff walked by she asked each and every one of them to help. I could tell the staff was annoyed by her, but eventually she found an attending, who immediately went to the room and gave the elderly woman some pain medication.
Lesson: The squeaky wheel gets the grease! Speak up.
If my mother was in pain, I don’t care what the staff think about me, I’ll ask every person who walks by for help until I get it.
Third Scenario-Bed 18.
- Bed 18 was a woman named Anna. How do I know? Because the nursing tech that came to do Eric’s EKG quietly said, “Anna?” when she came in the room. Neither boyfriend nor I heard or understood what she’d said (and in our defense Anna and Eric sound somewhat similar when someone mumbles), so we both just smiled and sat quietly while she stuck little stickers all over his body. A few minutes later she looked confused and left the room for a minute. When she came back she asked Eric for his name, then laughed saying, “I thought you were a man, why didn’t you didn’t tell me your name wasn’t Anna?” Umm didn’t the facial hair, Adam’s apple and men’s shoes on the floor give it away? Weird and scary. Now I can understand how the wrong patients are sometimes operated on!
Lesson: If you can’t/don’t understand, ask for clarification!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and insure that the staff know who you are and what your condition is!
Fourth Scenario-Bed 15.
- Bed 15 was in police custody. I’m not sure why she ended up in the ER, but I do know her full name, the charges that were brought against her, and her pre-existing medical conditions. I also know that the police called her boyfriend and asked him to come to the hospital ASAP.
Lesson: If you hear hospital staff sharing private health information in public, say something!
Your private health information is protected by national law. Granted, in this specific instance it was the police sharing personal information about this patient with hospital staff (loudly in the hallway) but I’m sure we’ve all heard hospital staff share confidential information about patients in front of strangers.
Fifth Scenario-Bed 14.
- Bed 14 was occupied by a family who only spoke Spanish. I’m not sure who the patient was, but I believe it may have been a child based on the fact that the woman (I assume the child’s mother) mother was insistent that someone come to translate and repeatedly told the doctors, “I don’t understand I need someone who speaks Spanish.” The mom started out quiet, but was getting pretty loud (I could hear her many rooms away). I can’t even imagine how scary it would be to not understand what the doctors were telling me due to a language barrier. With the technical jargon doctors use, I have a hard enough time understanding MDs who speak English.
Lesson: You are your own best advocate!
If you have to raise your voice to get what you need, don’t be afraid to do so. When you’re scared and in pain, regular “rules” about manners and niceties go out the window.
How have you advocated for yourself or others? Are you embarrassed to ask for want from your health care providers?
Image: Taber Andrew Bain