I must live in a fairy tale world. My peers and I routinely advocate for patients. A couple of years ago I was at a National Training Institute and listened to my peers talk about how they had advocated for themselves and their patients, as well as each other.
Has it always been a bed of roses? No, not even close. I “won” some and I “lost” some. But never once have I felt threatened or at risk for my job or my lively hood. This is very different than the picture that is being painted by the supporters of a nurse in AZ. We as a group will never know what actually happened that night, when a nurse talked to a patient and provided information. Those of you who have been doing this for years know fully well that no two people remember a situation the same way. What is being claimed is that there is a conspiracy to ruin a nurses career, The conspiracy involves a midwest hospital and the stare board of nursing. On the internet the topic has been divisive and polarizing.
I guess in one way I was lucky. I started my adult career in the US Air Force. I had the benefit of some outstanding mentors to guide me. My first mentor was a Senior Master Sergeant named Peter J Blumlick. He showed me how to advocate for my troops. He showed me that to be an advocate, I had to understand the problems and I need to be able to communicate not only the problem, but a solution. He also taught me that there is time to go off the reservation, but it needed to be a life threatening problem andI had to be wiling to take the consequences.
As I progressed I had many people who set examples as patient advocates. I worked in the SICU at Johns Hopkins and had the fortune to work with Pronovost, Dorman, and Lipsett. By watching how they responded to nurses who were putting their patients first. I watched how the nurses stood up to the MD’s when they thought there was something that needed to be done differently. The nurses weren’t afraid of the Doctors, they were treated as equal colleagues. I also saw that the MD’s were confident enough to ask the nurses their opinion of things. The one thing that was consistent. was confidence without being cocky, and having a plan an alternative and being able to communicate it.
Has it always been peachy keen. Nope. I’ve lost a few,made some mistakes, made some bad choices, But those same people who showed me how to be an advocate, showed me how to be a man and admit my mistakes, and move on. Learning each time. My failures were always when I tried to do it alone. This is a team sport. I was allowed to resign in lue of being fired for making a wrong choice and when they started talking about acting outside my scope. I didn’t argue, I asked about how to make a better choice the next time. Kind of deflated their attack.
Because I had learned though, I was able to stand my ground with the surgeon who was a terror in the OR, Look him right in the eye and with confidence of knowing I was right, stood him down. We’re now good friends and still learn from each other.
I learned the true definition of advocacy. It’s honesty and integrity. It’s truly putting the patient, or the coworker of whoever first and you and your ego last. It works. This is a stressful job and there is no need to make it any harder on ourselves.