Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celebrate Patient Advocacy Week

It’s not much fun being sick. Apart from not feeling well, your life is disrupted, you or your family must make complicated care decisions, and – in the back of your mind – there’s the worry you won’t make a full recovery.

So if somebody grabbed your hand and offered to make being sick a little easier, you would think he or she was heaven-sent, right?

To many a grateful patient or family member, patient advocates - who can be a navigator, health coach or guest relations designee - are like angels. The Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy (SHCA)'s Patient Advocacy Week (April 11-14) is a good chance to thank those who work tirelessly in departments such as Volunteer Services, Guest Relations or the Emergency Department.

For Karen Foote, guest relations representative in Northwest Hospital’s ER-7, being a patient advocate is very much about giving people the respect they want. She “works the area,” introducing herself to everyone and giving waiting family members updates on their loved one so they aren’t kept in suspense.

Knowing that ER waits can be draining, Karen pushes around a cart of supplies to make sure those in the waiting room have pillows, blankets, and a paper or magazine to read. Sometimes she’ll even reconfigure the ER seating to accommodate groups or add extra chairs so that everyone has a place to sit.

“I like feeling like I’m approachable,” says Karen. People often confuse her for a police officer, social worker, registration associate or financial services representative. At times, she has to play these roles.

“I love my job; it was made for me,” Karen says. “It’s not just about fixing people physically, but also fixing them mentally.”

For more information on Patient Advocacy Week, click here.

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