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April 16, 2008 > Patient Representatives Help Patients Navigate Hospital Stay

Patient Representatives Help Patients Navigate Hospital Stay

Patient Advocacy Week Focuses on Quality Care

Getting admitted to the hospital can be a frightening experience for patients and their loved ones, even when it's planned. While already not feeling well and concerned about their health, patients enter a system they often know very little about. Questions loom: Am I going to be okay? What should I expect? What is the doctor talking about?
To help alleviate these and other concerns, patient representatives like Washington Hospital's Joey Schriefer, R.N., and Miriam Dicristina, R.N., help patients navigate the hospital system so they can get the best care possible. Patient representatives advocate for patients and serve as liaisons between patients and their families and hospital staff and physicians.
"We can help remove the roadblocks between you and the medical care you need," Schriefer said.
Patient representatives are being recognized this week during Patient Advocacy Week, April 13 through April 19. Sponsored by the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy, it focuses attention on patient representatives' critical role in ensuring patients get quality care.
"We have a very strong patient-centered, patient-first ethic here at Washington Hospital," said Schriefer, who is a registered nurse along with her colleague Dicristina. She worked as a psychiatric nurse for years while Dicristina was a medical surgical nurse. "Our skills and experience really complement each other."
The patient representatives get involved in a patient's care in a variety of ways. They often visit new patients to introduce themselves and see if the patient has any concerns or needs. They may be contacted by the patient or a family member or some other hospital staff member familiar with the case.
There are a number of ways they can assist patients, from referring them to their physician to explain a medical diagnosis or treatment plan to untangling an insurance issue. Sometimes it's just a matter of calling another department to get the right answers and bring clarity to an issue.
"As someone who has spent time in the hospital, I understand how overwhelming this can all be," Schriefer said. "Patients already aren't feeling well, and now there are decisions to make and issues to face."
'Please Ask' Encourages Involvement
Patients and their families are encouraged to take an active role in their care at Washington Hospital. Research shows that patients and families who are actively involved with their doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have better outcomes.
"Our 'Please Ask' campaign encourages patients to ask about their care," Schriefer said. "Patients receive a 'Please Ask' brochure when they are admitted along with a list of patient's rights and responsibilities."
Patients should ask about their medications and pay attention to what they are being given. They should ask questions about their condition and understand their care plan. They should ask about the risks and benefits of treatment and know their options. Patients should also know their rights and responsibilities.
Patients have the right to considerate and respectful care and respect for their personal values and beliefs. They have the right to privacy and confidentiality. They have the right to make their own decisions about medical care and receive as much information about any proposed treatment or procedure as they need. They have the right to request or refuse treatment. The list goes on.
Patients also have some responsibilities, including providing complete and accurate information regarding their medical history and being considerate of others in the hospital, including other patients, visitors and hospital employees.
"We work to make sure patients' rights are respected and patients get the most out of their hospital stay. Every day is different, which makes this job very interesting," Schriefer said. "Being able to help patients and their families makes it extremely rewarding."
For information about Washington Hospital programs and services, visit To view the Patient Right and Responsibilities document on the website, click on "The Community" tab and choose "Patient Rights & Responsibilities" from the drop-down menu.

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