Jul 28

Healthcare is expensive, ask for what you want!

521898569_cd0b65a7c7_mHealthcare 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


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  1. Health care in this country is entirely messed up, true. You need constantly to be your own advocate. There are too many places where the system can go wrong if you are not paying attention.

      • KK on July 28, 2014 at 11:03 pm
      • Reply

      I totally agree Brad. If you’re not looking out for your own best interest, nobody else is.

  2. Wow, 5 instances of “mistakes” and things just in one hospital visit! That’s scary!

      • KK on July 28, 2014 at 11:06 pm
      • Reply

      Isn’t it!? One visit and all of those crazy things going on? We were only there for a few hours.

  3. Everything you pointed out are all patients’ rights. Certainly there is evidence that we have two types of health care—really good care for people with money, and mediocre at best care for those without.

      • KK on July 28, 2014 at 11:08 pm
      • Reply

      Sadly a lot of people don’t know their rights and/or are afraid to say anything when they aren’t getting appropriate care.

  4. This is a very cool and interesting approach! I really like how you wrote this – even though it’s ridiculous that all of these things happened!

    On our recent trip to the ER, we were grossed out by the over-flowing garbage can in R’s room and the used gauze on the floor. (But at least the nurses used gloves!)

    I really dislike my current doctor because he’s so un-involved… He types away his computer the whole time I”m talking to him about whatever brought me in, and he prints out a prescription and sends me on my way. I’ve learned to speak up – A LOT – because of how awful he is, and because I was tired of going in three or four times to get the right treatment.

      • KK on July 28, 2014 at 11:12 pm
      • Reply

      Glad that R is doing OK. I’d be totally grossed out (and a little reluctant) to get care somewhere where there was a trash can overflowing with used gauze, eww! I think we’d be shocked if we knew how dirty hospitals really are (even when the look clean).

      My old MD never really acted that interested to see me. I recently switched and I’m hoping the new one will pay more attention and at least pretend to listen to me.

  5. Umm, I’ve seen a couple of pics that you’ve shared of your bf, and he doesn’t look anything like an Anna – what the heck?! I’m glad that he’s okay, though that’s pretty gross about the no gloves thing. And I agree – if a loved one is in pain, I’d for sure be a squeaky wheel (though admittedly, probably not the loudest advocate for myself). I do agree to get the most for the small time you can, though, so I always come with questions on my phone even though I’ve Googled some answers.

      • KK on July 28, 2014 at 11:18 pm
      • Reply

      Right? I mean he’s not exactly feminine looking, and even if she was unsure she should have stopped before wiring him up.

      Sometimes I think it’s easier to be a good advocate for others. I love the idea of bringing a list of questions. I always try to bring a list of my concerns and symptoms when I go to the MD. That way I don’t forget anything if I’m feeling really bad.

  6. This is so disappointing. I’ve never been in the ER myself, but I’ve been holed up in a room for 5 days while recovering from surgery, and it was very difficult to get a nurse to come in the room when I was in pain. I actually had better luck being in the pediatric wing (even though I was over 18; they ran out of room). The nurses there were much nicer and more attentive. I would have been really grossed out about the no-glove situation, too. I can’t believe the nurse didn’t realize Eric was a guy, though. Seriously?! She should have clearly asked for his name to start with.

      • KK on July 28, 2014 at 11:20 pm
      • Reply

      I think you’re on to something with the pediatric providers. When I was still living in Boston my primary was a pediatrician (She saw people under 25 and none of the “adult” MDs had openings). She was very sweet and accommodating. Thankfully I haven’t had my own ER visit for several years.

  7. I can say that in Quebec the ER service wasn’t stellar either by accounts of many I know although you would never find it empty…overcrowded is more like it.
    I am not shy when it comes to the health and welfare of those I love. Fortunately, when my mom and deceased step-father had numerous hospital stays they were very well attended to and wanted for nothing every time.

    The only very negative hospital occurence was when my stepfather passed away and the hospital notified my mother, by the time she arrived at the hospital they had already moved him to the morgue. The staff would not permit my mother to see his body. If I had been there, I would have made sure to file a formal complaint let alone hit the roof over that.

      • KK on July 28, 2014 at 11:25 pm
      • Reply

      The hospital closest to us is pretty small (and only takes certain health insurances which keeps a lot of people away). When I ended up in the ER at NY Presbyterian we waited for hours and hours, it was horrible, but the care was excellent. Contrast that with crappy care but no wait times. I guess it depends on how serious the emergency is and what type of emergency it is. For stitches or something basic I’d go to the local, for something more serious I’d get my butt to the city so they don’t kill me with some nasty infection from not wearing gloves.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your step-dad. That sounds like the most horrible thing ever. I would absolutely “lose my shit” if something like that happened to me. How sick and sad are those providers that they didn’t give her the time she needed with her husband, Awful!

  8. KK, awesome post. We’ve learned first hand and through others experiences all of these rules. YOU are paying them for service, you are the customer. Expect the best, and if you don’t get it, or don’t like what you hear, stand up and shout about it.

      • KK on July 29, 2014 at 11:03 pm
      • Reply

      Exactly, I’m the customer and you should be glad to have my “business”. If you’re not I’ll find another hospital or doctor or I’ll raise hell until I get what I deserve 😉

  9. Geez, that is scary! My healthcare plan is to try to avoid the hospital at all costs!

  10. I was hospitalized last month, at first when I was in the admitting area and my mom filled up the form, I think it took us for how many years before they brought me to the ER room! They didn’t allow me to enter in the ER until my mom finished the form!

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