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The NSPA Blog

When the patient advocate becomes the patient: how to advocate for yourself

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Posted on November 20th, 2018 by Teri Dreher, under Patient Advocacy, Patient Tools, Something New, Take Charge

Last week I underwent a MAKO robotic assisted left total knee replacement and got to experience, once again, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the healthcare system.

I decided months ago that I wanted the best surgeon I could get with the lowest infection rates and years of experience. I did not want my procedure done in a hospital, or go to a rehab facility where nosocomial infections are rampant. In short, I wanted a top doctor, no complications and a short “down time.” So I did my research and found what I believe was an excellent choice. It did not matter to me that his office was over an hour away, or that all my labs, CT scan and X-rays had to be done in hospitals close to him.

A team effort

Arriving at the Surgical Center at 5:00 AM last week, I had done all the preparation necessary, following every instruction to the tiniest detail. I went into the OR at exactly 6:30 AM after a nerve block was done by my anesthesiologist, who actually spent time with me and answered all my questions well. The nursing staff were thorough and my doctor’s specific lists and orders left no room for variability. Pre and postop protocols were very impressive, thorough and followed by all. Not to mention fabulous customer service, friendly staff and everything running like “a well oiled machine” for my benefit. (reference Atul Gwande’s The Checklist Manifesto)
I was home by 1:30 PM and my home health nurse and therapist met me there and have seen me daily since surgery. I have followed all instructions, especially the difficult physical therapy exercises where I force myself to do flexion and extension as far as I can go. Today is postop day four and I am using less pain medication, walking without a walker or cane and even working in the office. I cannot believe how easy this has been so far!  Though I expected good things because I trusted my doctor, I had also been told by many that the pain would be pretty bad for at least two weeks.

As I think about why my procedure went so well and recovery seems easier than I expected, here is what I have learned:

  • Do your research. When a doctor comes well recommended, dig deeper to find out more about them. Make sure they have an impressive track record, no malpractice claims against them and that he/she takes time to address your fears and concerns. Competent doctors are not always nice, and nice doctors are not always competent. You want both.
  • Make sure you do “prehab” to make your muscles as strong as possible before orthopedic procedures and lose weight if you can to decrease pressure on new artificial joints.
  • Follow every direction your doctor’s office gives you; it makes their job so much easier; after all if the whole team is playing well together on your behalf you will get a better outcome. And that is what you want, right?
  • Ask questions, lots of them, if you have any questions at all. If you notice something wrong, call your doctor immediately for instructions.
  • Say thank you. Healthcare providers these days have many pressures to deal with, including rigorous oversight of everything they do, dealing with insurance companies, staff and grumpy patients. One compliment can make someone’s day and there is no one in a better position to do that than you!

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.