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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Patient Advocate Responsibilities

Published June 8, 2007 2:25 PM by Kathleen Bensing

As nurses, we always tell patients they need to have an advocate for their healthcare needs and issues. If a person chooses you as an advocate, you have a responsibility to make sure you take this role seriously and always provide correct and current information/ resources. It's a treacherous journey for all individuals, including professionals, to navigate the healthcare system - and often harder for senior citizens.

Let me give you an example to address this issue: An 81-year-old woman, previously in good health, had a mild stroke 3 months ago. Fortunately she recovered with no neurological deficits and was eager to return to her previously active lifestyle. To retain her driver's license, she was required to take a driver's test, given by a certified person/agency. The woman's physician, who ultimately had to sign off she passed the test, told her who to call and then said the cost of the test was covered by Medicare. It would seem to make sense this cost would be reimbursed since the purpose of the test is to protect the public and the patient from unsafe drivers. After the woman took the test and passed with flying colors (a 1-hour drive around the town), the instructor said there was no coverage by Medicare and his fee was $170. The woman paid the fee and then called the physician's office to give them the correct information so they could pass it along to others.

As advocates, we can save patients stress, inconvenience and money if we take just a few minutes routinely to check the information we pass along to patients.

Kay Bensing

Senior staff nurse consultant to ADVANCE

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