Being a Patient Advocate
In the wake of the Alex Wubbels, RN arrest, nurses everywhere are rallying together in her support. The common issue that all nurses are pushing for is patient advocacy. Ask any nurse, and they will tell you that being a patient advocate is just as important as providing clinically good care.
Nurse Wubbels did what was right by her patient and proved to patients that nurses really are on their side. We care for those who cannot care for themselves and give a voice to those who cannot speak. We play the role of liaison, integrating medical care with education, psychosocial support, and assisting patients and families with navigating the complex and scary process of being sick. Most patients and their families do not understand the healthcare system. Many of these people do not even understand the fundamentals of their own anatomy and physiology, and may have gone their entire life without proper medical treatment. Most patients and families do not know their rights. They put their trust in the healthcare professionals caring for them and believe that they are doing the best thing and that they “know what they are talking about.” There is a reason nurses have been ranked the most trusted profession for fifteen years. Society trusts us to be that advocate, that liaison, that person in their corner during the ugliest days of their lives.
It’s our job as nurses to worry about the details. We help coordinate the ten different people involved in any one patient’s care. Whether you’re in the hospital setting or an outpatient clinic, care coordination is an essential part of the job. Patients have an immeasurable number of things to worry about, to plan and to figure out. As nurses, we can help unload some of that burden. At the very least, we can tell patients and families what they should, and shouldn’t, worry about. We can help.
We can learn a lot from this event. It highlights the importance of knowing your hospital’s policies. Being confident that you are following procedure and the law can help you get through any questionable situation. Most hospitals also have an ethics committee, and it’s important to know how to contact them and what your resources are.
It should not take an event like this to remind ourselves of the importance of patient advocacy. And it shouldn’t take a violent arrest to reinforce the fact that nurses have rights too.