NShore Patient Advocates, LLC
150 S. Wacker, Ste 2400, Chicago, IL 60606
info@northshorern.com  ·  312-788-2640

The NSPA Blog

Adovate Q&A — Sarah Valek

    [0] => 30
    [1] => 28
    [2] => 29
    [3] => 1

Posted on April 17th, 2018 by Teri Dreher, under Inspiring Stories, Something New, Tips & Resources

Sarah F Valek, RN MSN MBA, is a dedicated RN with 18 years experience in cardiology, pediatrics and healthcare management. She found her passion for advocacy early on in her career and understands the challenges patients face in today’s complex healthcare system. Here, we discuss with Sarah what it’s like being an RN advocate at NShore.

  1. You’re NShore’s newest advocate. Can you tell us a little bit about what drew you to the field of patient advocacy?

What drew me into nursing was having some things happen to me as a kid. I saw what nurses did, and I wanted to do that. I thought it was great that they took care of people at a time when they’re most vulnerable. I was drawn to that and the ability to teach patients self-care. In terms of advocacy, I became frustrated watching families trying to navigate through healthcare, not really knowing what to do while keeping their own lives in check. It was difficult. During times of crisis, that creates even more conflict within the family and within the individual person too. At times insurance companies try to dictate what’s going on, physicians are overworked, there’s never enough staff to take proper care of a patient, and I just saw medical errors and gaps in care forming.

  1. Do you remember a time in your career as an RN where you felt like you wanted to advocate for a patient, but for some reason couldn’t?

Yes. That definitely happened early in my career. I was staff nurse in a hospital, in an acute care setting. I felt like I really wanted to advocate for a patient and couldn’t. I had a whole team of patients, and I obviously couldn’t go home with this patient and follow up with them. They had all these social needs that weren’t being met and once we discharged them, they went off and I never knew what happened to them after that. That was really frustrating for me because I cared about my patients and wanted to really be able to help them.

  1. Is there a best and worst part of RN patient advocacy?

I think the best part of advocacy is being able to effectively put all the pieces together for a patient. So being able to step up and fight for their rights but also meet their actual needs, head to toe. Not only physically, but emotionally, legally, financially, prioritizing their top needs and following through for the patient. That’s the best part. Becoming part of the healthcare team and finding those inconsistencies and gaps in care and solving them. The worst part of it is people not always understanding the value of what we do. So weather that be an actual patient, or someone on the healthcare team not seeing the value we can bring to the table. That’s frustrating.

  1. I’ve heard someone once compare patient advocates to super heroes. Do you have a favorite super hero, either from a comic book or maybe a less traditional place of inspiration?

Mine is an untraditional superhero. My mother is my inspiration and my number one cheerleader. She taught me early on to be very strong, very confident, to be comfortable in my own skin, and the art of communication, which has really carried over not only into my work, but my personal life and the way I deal with others. It’s helped me handle conflict and she also emphasized the importance of compassion for others. It’ll always get you results. You may not always agree with everyone, but compassion will bring you peace. I’ve really benefitted from those things she taught me.

  1. If you could offer one piece of advice to people out there who are struggling to navigate the healthcare landscape, what would it be?

This one is easy. Of course, it’s to hire us! A highly skilled patient advocate can guide you through anything. We’ve seen it all, we’re not afraid of conflict, we’re not afraid of standing up for what is right because our number one interest is the patient and their loved ones. We know what questions to ask and how to navigate the system. From translating medical language to ensure the patient understands, and the family understands, and then following up on their self-care, that always brings the best results to the patients.

With over 36 years of clinical experience in Critical Care nursing, home based health care and expertise as a cardiovascular nurse clinician, Teri is well acquainted with the complexities of the modern healthcare system. She has served as a nursing leader, mentor, educator, and consistent patient advocate throughout her career in some of the best hospitals across the country. Her passion to keep the patient at the center of the model of nursing care led her to incorporate NShore Patient Advocates, LLC in 2011, serving clients throughout the northern suburbs of Chicago.

For a no-cost 30 minute initial consultation, please call 847-612-6684 or click here to fill out our online callback request form.