Medical advocates play a crucial role in helping loved ones during a hospital stay. Advocates serve as objective listeners and information seekers. It’s important that advocates are present during rounds to speak with the doctors each day. As the person who knows your loved one best, you provide the background knowledge medical professionals need to give the best care possible. While it may seem like an overwhelming task, preparation and determination can strengthen your advocating abilities.

Questions to Ask

It can be daunting to be a medical advocate if you don’t have enough information. Getting answers to these key questions can help you focus on your loved one and the care he or she receives during the hospitalization.

Top 5 questions to ask:

  • What is the diagnosis? Once a diagnosis has been determined everything else can move forward toward treatment and recovery.
  • What are the treatment options? It’s important to discuss the best method of treatment for your loved one, especially if there are several to choose from. 
  • What are potential complications? Medications can have side effects, and some treatments such as surgery pose different risks. Knowing what they are can help you plan and decide.
  • What are the goals for discharge? Having measurable goals can help your loved one work toward leaving the hospital. It will help you create a timeline of what can be expected along the way.
  • What are the expectations once home? Treatment might not end when your loved one leaves the hospital. Outpatient procedures, follow-up visits, and home-based therapies could extend weeks or months past a hospitalization. 

How to Document Discussions

As an advocate, it’s important to take notes during your loved one’s discussions with their healthcare providers. Many times patients will be overwhelmed with the amount of information they receive from all of the doctors and specialists they see during a hospital stay. Details about treatment procedures or medication reactions can be forgotten when the person leaves the room.

If the hospital stay is scheduled in advance come prepared with a notebook and pen; otherwise, those items can be found in the hospital room or asked for. Other options include typing out notes on your phone or asking the doctor if you can record the conversation. It’s valuable to document the date of the conversation and the person with whom you spoke. Record the name of any diagnoses or medications for potential future research. Don’t be afraid to ask how something is spelled!

Be Confident with Unresponsive Staff

Moments of high stress can put you at your limit. The same is true for hospital employees. As your loved one’s advocate it can sometimes feel that you’re not on the same team as the nurses or doctors. Remain confident when asking questions and continue to do so. Even if the staff seem closed off, don’t be afraid to seek answers.

If you’re having difficulty, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I giving people the benefit of the doubt? Maybe they are having a bad day or they’re focused on providing care and not reacting negatively to your questions.
  • Is this a good time? Asking questions while nurses are charting or completing a procedure can be a distraction.
  • Did they hear me? People can be so focused they don’t hear what’s going on around them so ask again.

Certainly, there are times when questions need to be asked immediately and forcefully. Speak up if you suspect an error is taking place or about to occur!

Call The James Law Firm 

Even with your best effort, medical accidents can still happen. The James Law Firm has the experience, compassion, and knowledge needed to tackle even the most complex medical error cases. If you’re a victim of a medical error and have been injured anywhere in Iowa, don’t hesitate to call us today at 515-246-8484. We represent clients in Des Moines, Davenport/Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, and more. We will travel to help you!