How Do I Advocate For Myself As A Patient In The Hospital

Originally published July 14, 2018

When you’re a patient at the hospital it can almost seem as though no one is listening to you and advocating for yourself may be intimidating. Doctors seem to always be talking about you but never to you. Most doctors will practice rounding first (discussing the case) then giving you a summary at the end. It can be an intimidating experience for the patient- but it doesn’t have to be. You are the one being seen and taken care of so you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself.

It’s important to remember that you’re the patient and we’re here to help you.

When you don’t know what’s going on:

Ask! That’s the only answer really. When you’re in the hospital at least one doctor sees you everyday, so ask them. Asking a nurse or patient care assistant might end up frustrating you because they’re not able to give you in as much detail as the doctor actually seeing and caring for you.

If you don’t understand what is being said, ask them to repeat or explain in a different way. We have been trained for years and sometimes what we think is simple is often jargon filled and you, the patient, aren’t able to understand us- that’s ok, ask us to rephrase it and we will.

When you have new problems or concerns:

Everyday a doctor comes and assesses you, they ask you some questions, examine you, then make a plan based off of what they think is wrong. No matter how small you think it is, tell us!

You got panadol but you’re still in pain? Tell us. All of a sudden you aren’t passing stool? Tell us. This is also a great time to ask questions.

When you aren’t getting (insert here):

Unfortunately, the public system is understaffed and under resourced which means sometimes patients unfortunately fall through the cracks. In a perfect world this wouldn’t happen. The best thing to do is remind or ask a nurse.

When it comes to pain medication sometimes because you’re not being loud and boisterous people may feel you’re not in pain. So if you’re in pain vocalise it, ask for your medication.

If you find that you’re still slipping through the cracks, when your doctor or team comes to you speak up.

When you’re being disrespected:

This is a difficult one, and often times patients are disrespected for a variety of reasons and it shouldn’t be so.

If it is by other patients, nurses and doctors have a responsibility to control their ward and ensure that such behaviour is nipped in the bud immediately.

When it is done by staff, the best thing to do here, in my opinion, is go to their senior. Why I say this is because, unless you’re able to calmly speak to the person, the situation can escalate into a screaming, and heated match. It is the seniors responsibility to ensure that everyone under them is doing their jobs.

All hospitals have customer care where you’re allowed to lodge complaints and give suggestions. I encourage you to use these facilities as they act as a learning tool for the facility, especially the suggestion box.

If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your HIV status you are encouraged to make a complaint through the redress system. Find out more from JN+.

When you’re in the hospital, the majority of patients get good quality care. As patients, we are to respect and treat you fairly no matter what. This does not mean that you, as patients, are allowed to kick, scream, spit and curse after us. So while we are expected to be respectful, you are also expected to be respectful to us and other patients around you.

Samantha C. Johnson

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