Be Your Own Advocate
Everyone plays an important role in making health care as safe as it can be; physicians, health care executives, nurses and technicians, and you. WakeMed has made your safety one of our key priorities. As our patient, you have a vital role in safety by being an active, involved and informed member of your health care team.
While at WakeMed, if you ever have questions or concerns, or if you don't understand something, just ask. We encourage you to take an active role and participate in your care.
Your health is too important for you to worry about being embarrassed if you don't understand something that your doctor, nurse or other health care professional tells you.
Ask questions if you are ever concerned about your care or safety. WakeMed is committed to ensuring your safety and has implemented many safety procedures. Following find some specific examples of how you can play an integral role in ensuring your own safety.
Patient Safety and Identification
- Don't hesitate to tell the health care professional if you think he or she has mistaken you for another patient.
- Your nurse will give you all of your medications and will ask you several questions to confirm who you are and that the medications are correct. If you are concerned that you are about to be given the wrong medication, it is important for you to speak up and let us know.
- You can expect hospital staff to introduce themselves when they enter your room. All employees wear WakeMed identification badges; look to make sure they have one on.
- Make sure your nurse or doctor confirms your identity. He or she will do this by checking your wristband and asking your name, before administering any medication or treatment.
- You may be asked to confirm your procedure by more than one health care provider. While this may seem redundant, it is part of our efforts to make sure everything is correct.
- Educate yourself about the medications you take and why you take them. Medication errors are the most common health care mistakes.
- Ask about the purpose of the medication. Request written information about it, including its brand and generic names. Also inquire about the side effects of the medication.
- If you do not recognize a medication, verify that it is for you. Ask about oral medications before swallowing, and if you are given intravenous (IV) fluids, read the contents of bag. If you're not well enough to do this, ask your advocate to do this.
- Take note of what time of day you normally receive medication. If it doesn't happen, bring this to the attention of your doctor or nurse.
- If you are given an IV, ask the nurse how long it should take for the liquid to "run out'. Tell the nurse if it doesn't seem to be dripping properly (that is too fast or too slow).
- Whenever you are going to receive a new medication, tell your doctors and nurses about allergies you have, including negative reactions you have had to medications in the past.
- If you are taking multiple medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to take those medications together. This holds true for vitamins, herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs, too.
- When you leave the hospital with a prescription written by your doctor, make sure you can read the handwriting. If you can't read it, the pharmacist may not be able to either.
Surgical Site Identification
- If you're having surgery, a nurse will put a site identifier at the surgery location just to make sure that there's no confusion in the operating room. You will also be asked several times to confirm what type of procedure you are having.
- Know who will be taking care of you, how long the treatment will last, and how you should feel.
- Understand that more tests or medications may not always be better. Ask your doctor what a new test or medication is likely to achieve. You and your doctor should agree on exactly what will be done during each step of your care. Make sure you participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are part of the health care team.
- Keep copies of your medical records from previous hospitalizations and share them with your health care team. This background will give them a more complete picture of your health history.
- Don't be afraid to seek a second opinion. If you are unsure about the nature of your illness and the best treatment, consult with one or two additional specialists. The more information you have about the options available to you, the more confident you will be in the health care decisions you make.
- Notice whether your caregivers have washed their hands. Hand washing is the single most important way to prevent the spread of infections. Don't be afraid to remind a doctor or nurse to do this.
Enlisting an Advocate
- Your advocate can ask questions that you may not think of while you are under stress.
- Ask this person to stay with you, even overnight, when you are hospitalized. You will be able to rest more comfortably, and your advocate can help to make sure you get the right medications and treatments.
- Your advocate can also help remember answers to questions you have asked, and speak up for you if you cannot.
- Make sure this person understands your Advance Directive preferences for care and your wishes concerning resuscitation and life support.
- Review consents for treatment with your advocate before you sign them, and make sure you both understand exactly what you are agreeing to.
- Make sure both you and your advocate understand the type of care you will need and discharge instructions for when you get home. Your advocate should know what to look for if your condition is getting worse and whom to call for help.
- When you are ready for discharge, ask your health care provider to review your medications and discharge plan with you and your advocate.
Being Your Own Advocate
- Know your diagnosis, the medical tests you are undergoing, and your treatment plan.
- Thoroughly read all medical forms and make sure you understand them before you sign anything. If you don't understand, ask your doctor or nurse to explain them.
- Ask your doctor about the specialized training and experience that qualifies him or her to treat your illness (and be sure to ask the same questions of those physicians to whom he or she refers you).
- Gather information about your condition. Good sources include your doctor, your library, respected websites and support groups.
- Write down important facts your doctor tells you, so that you can look for additional information later. Ask your health care provider if he or she has any written information that you can keep.
- Make sure you are familiar with the operation of any equipment that is being used in your care.
If at anytime you have any questions or concerns about your care, the following resources are available to you:
- Your nurse
- Your doctor
- The manager of your nursing unit
- The Chief Operating Officer of the Hospital