How CNAs Can Become Patient Advocates in Their Own Way

Article Categories: Legal and Ethics & Other

Patients usually struggle with their poor health conditions. They may be weak, confused, in pain, or experience loss of function. Hospital visits, doctor exams, and treatment become overwhelming. Lack of information can leave them in the dark. Although the whole patient care system exists primarily to help the patient, they can be indirectly left out of the process.

This is where patient advocacy becomes crucial. What is patient advocacy?

Patient advocacy is demanding and preserving the patient’s right to healthcare. It is putting patients first and acting in their best interest. Advocates do what's best for the patient, speaking on their behalf and refusing to take them out of the picture.

Patient advocates are hired individuals such as family caregivers, nurses, lawyers, or friends who are officially designated by the patient to guide them through the complexities of the healthcare system. Although simply being a nursing assistant in a hospital, home, or facility does not make you an official patient advocate, you can still act as one by following these simple tips:

1. Know the patient's wants and needs.

This is first in our list since you have to identify what your patient's needs are before you can advocate for them. Know their preferences as well, because even small things will improve their experience. For example, if a patient prefers their bread untoasted, inform those preparing meals of their preferences.

2. Learn to ask tough but necessary questions.

Your main focus is the patient, so ask them if
- they are comfortable opening up to the healthcare team, especially their physician, or if they are holding back information.
- they have any questions or need more information.
- they need to say something.

When it comes to patient care, receiving and following instructions isn’t always simple, especially where there is doubt, possible error, or risk of injury. At this point, don’t be afraid to ask away. For example, you noticed that a patient has been doubling his usual dose of medication and lately complained of nausea. You ask the nurse if there was a change in the patient’s prescription, particularly if a dose was doubled.

3. Document and speak up.

The simplest way to advocate for a patient is to promptly document and report new patient complaints and all your observations. Also, in situations where a patient is being ignored, you need to step up and respectfully point out the patient’s wishes or suggest asking the patient first.

This is a common scenario when family members assert their wants or choose what is convenient for them instead of what is good for the patient. If your support is not enough, introduce the idea of hiring an official patient advocate.

4. Maintain confidentiality.

Part of looking after the patient’s best interest is keeping their health information and other details private. Unless authorized, refrain from giving out information or answering questions outside the healthcare team.

5. Preserve their dignity.

Nursing assistants can also act as advocates by ensuring the patient is not made to feel embarrassed while receiving care. During ongoing treatments where body parts can potentially be exposed, provide covering, close the windows and doors, and pull drapes closed.

6. Provide the right information.

Although CNAs cannot perform health teaching, they can give out pamphlets and brochures provided by hospitals and facilities to help keep their patients informed.

7. Connect patients to resources.

Work with the healthcare team when patients seem to need community resources or any other type of support for their health. Point them in the right direction when necessary.

As you can see, CNAs can be patient advocates in their own simple ways. When patients are the first priority, it becomes easier to be their voice!


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