Understanding Healthcare as an Advocate
When you take on the role of caregiver, you become responsible for your family member’s daily care duties, but you also become their advocate. Understanding Healthcare is essential to working within the medical environment and getting anything done. Healthcare systems are complex. A strict reporting line of leadership exists, and roles are well-defined. Staff work as a team, with each member knowing their role and the expectations of the other roles.
Since each member knows what to expect of the others, during a crisis, the team can perform quickly and efficiently with precision to address the emergency and help more patients safely. Furthermore, since most job titles have similar roles throughout the country, staff can apply for jobs anywhere, and hospitals hire them confident that they have similar experience as their staff.
The ability to work as a team, know each other’s roles, recruit, and seek employment in multiple locations are all advantages to the staffing hierarchy. The downside, however, is that employers do not have the flexibility to become creative within specific job titles with job duties. Adding duties to a title that are duties of a different title is usually in violation of a regulation or law and, therefore, prohibited. For the employee to perform those duties could result in losing their license and arrest. Therefore, asking a healthcare professional to do something outside the scope of their job description will usually get you a negative response or, at the very least, an extensive discussion and approval process. So, if you need exceptional help, learn who to ask for what.
Clinical teams are closely regulated. Laws and regulations control everything; therefore, asking them to do something out of their norm requires a research project, with a committee review, followed by months of discussion, assessments, evaluations, and re-evaluations before making a decision. By the time it’s approved, you may not even need it. There’s red tape on top of red tape, with no decision unless a “multi-disciplinary” committee reviews the final recommendations from the last re-evaluation and moves it forward to obtain the three layers of approval required to bless the decision before it can come before the Board.
Healthcare Places a Lot of Emphasis on Education
One trend emerging in Healthcare is the credential requirement in most healthcare professions. The day of learning on the job is long past for most job titles. Educational levels are a big deal with all disciplines, and credentials speak volumes. Most jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree, and many require a master’s.
As a result, unfortunately, many professionals tend to talk down to their customers who do not have a college education. They assume those patients cannot understand information, “talk over” them or lead them in making decisions a particular way without all the facts. They fail to explain the lab and imaging results (X-rays, CTs, or MRIs). The medical staff and the nursing leaders often speak to the caregivers and family condescendingly.
Therefore, knowing the healthcare language and talking the talk is essential. If you can hold your own in a conversation on the health topic under discussion, you will earn the healthcare provider’s respect. After that, the healthcare personnel will be more inclined to include you in discussions.
Part of understanding Healthcare is reading the consent forms carefully upon admission to know your rights and responsibilities before making decisions.
Family Controls Medical Care
As the caregiver or patient, you are in charge of the healthcare team—not the medical team. They work for you and not the other way around. You know your family member’s history better than anyone. You know how your loved one responds better than anyone. Stand your ground if you believe they need something different from what the doctor advises. Make them listen and talk to you.
Decision Making Authority
If you have to get their attention, put out a copy of your medical power of attorney or medical decision-making documents. If you have not obtained legal authority yet, get it now before you need it. Those documents are the only ones that let you walk through doors. Healthcare officials recognize your right to speak on behalf of your family members when you have them. No one will listen to you if you do not have that POA designation unless your family member is legally declared incompetent or has died and you are next-of-kin. Chances are you do not want either to occur; therefore, a POA is the next best choice.
Power of Attorney Designation
Once you establish yourself as the POA, your family member may choose to defer all conversations to you. When that happens, the medical community starts to work with you. However, it’s good to keep a copy of your POA document with you to present whenever you meet with a new healthcare person for the first time because healthcare personnel do not share information. You almost always repeat your story multiple times, which includes showing the exact documents to each of them along the way.
Always Keep These Documents with You
Take a copy of the following documents with you every time you go to the hospital or doctor’s office:
- your Power of Attorney,
- your family member’s insurance cards,
- government-issued identification card (driver’s license),
- a list of all prescribed medications,
- over-the-counter medicine they take,
- diet supplements (vitamins, minerals, etc.), or
- herbal supplements (home remedies).
- I fill out a copy of the pre-registration form that I offer when you sign up for the website’s subscription and use that.
If your family member has implants or transplants, keep the essential information about those with you. I have a zipper pouch to store mine and update the contents after each medical appointment with any changes to his medication list to stay current.