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The NSPA Blog

The Cost of Advocacy

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Posted on April 29th, 2012 by Teri Dreher, under Patient Advocacy

This week, I heard more heartbreaking stories of nurses who are working hard to advocate for their patients within the healthcare system and are finding it to be more and more difficult to do due to politics and competing interests within the system. Unfortunately, as costs of health care escalate, one of the quickest ways to maximize profit is to cut back on nursing staff. Nurses are working harder than ever before on hospital wards around the country, sacrificing more and more of their work hours to documentation, with higher demands than ever before being required by beurocrats developing new hospital safety programs. The good news is that hospitals are now recognizing that patient safety is a serious problem in modern US health care. The bad news is that change is happening far too slowly and many programs are making the problem worse by requiring nurses to be away from the patient’s bedside more and more. Nurses cannot see subtle changes in patient’s conditions when they are sitting in front of their computer for three or more hours of every work day. It’s no wonder that more and more nurses are leaving the hospital bedside and fewer qualified nurses are replacing them. More young women and men today go to medical or physician assistant school than nursing school. Who will take care of the patients in the future?

For the past 13 years, the Barna research group has ranked nursing as the number one most trusted profession. People trust and respect nurses overall and still view nursing as the most noble profession. Pressure to perform extraneous tasks and become more ‘rules oriented’ are natural byproducts of initiatives to improve healthcare safety, yet I cannot help but feel that there is a ‘disconnect’ regarding programs and how they impact quality bedside care in the real world. As the nursing shortage continues and political pressure within the system continues to trickle down to nurses in many forms, it is becoming increasingly challenging for individual hospital nurses to make a difficult stand within the system when they see issues affecting patient safety. There will always be a certain tension when a nurse takes a stand for a patient when another hospital employee is involved. Whose side will the hospital stand with? Will the nurse’s job be in jeopardy for doing so?

One of the best ways to protect patients navigating the healthcare system today is to hire a personal professional patient advocate. When the client is paying for the nurse advocate’s services, there can be no question about competing priorities or whose interests she has in mind. These nurses know how to navigate the system in ways that the lay person cannot. Privately contracted nurse advocates are becoming the fastest growing nursing specialty today and they are on the cutting edge of healthcare solutions for improved patient safety. Everyone will be seeing more and more of us in the coming years…!

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.