There probably isn’t anyone who knows you better than your family. In the family therapy community there’s a joke, “Why does your family push your buttons? Because they installed them!” Funny but also very true. The connections you have with loved ones can save your life when you’re in the hospital.
A Wall Street Journal article discussed new legislation being passed in states that gives family or those with legal rights to make medical decisions the right to call for help in times of trouble. When a family notices potentially lethal changes or problems as a result of medical errors hospitals are beginning to create emergency teams that will respond. Why has this happened?
There have been cases where a family member noticed changes in a patient and the only people who have had contact with the patient were nurses and residents. Believe it or not there are times when we need the big guns, the attending physicians who can spot the problems that residents may have never encountered in their training. These laws have come about because of deaths that resulted from this lack of care.
The article states, “…a new patient-safety law in the state (South Carolina), is one of a number of hospitals to give patients families the power to demand immediate attention from experienced medical staff when they fear a worsening condition.” The article does on to say, “…studies show patients particularly vulnerable on nights and weekends when hospitals are often thinly staffed and those on duty may hesitate to call in senior physicians.”
We’re dealing with multiple systems, but the truth is as a someone caring for a loved one in the hospital, show some moxy and call the senior physician. Do you really want to start your career with an unnecessary death on your hands? I know the problem is deeper because we’re dealing with a culture in the medical community that has perpetuated itself for a very long and time and breaking these unspoken rules gets the intern/resident in trouble. As patients and caregivers we have to get past the politics of the medical community and do what’s right for our loved one.
As a result of these medical errors there is a group forming called “Mothers Against Medical Errors”. This tells us that it’s not a fluke, but a true epidemic in our hospitals. The website will be launched at the end of the month, http://www.empoweredpatientcoalition.org. If you or a loved one is going in to the hospital, learn the symptoms that could be the result of an escalating problem. Ask a lot of questions? Don’t take vague answers! Give yourself and your loved ones every benefit to leave the hospital on the road to health and healing.