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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Advocacy--How far would you go?

Published October 1, 2009 3:55 PM by Luke Cowles

The September 30th episode of the NBC show Mercy was centered on patient advocacy.  Each of the three main characters had to advocate for their patients in a rather dramatic way.  Yes, it was dramatic because it was television, but it left me wondering how far "real life" nurses have gone to advocate for their patients.  Nurses say they are patient advocates, but what does that really mean in the daily functions of the profession?

 In the episode, Veronica was caring for a young patient after an accident, whose leg was virtually crushed.  After a severe infection set in and the patient lost consciousness, his leg had to be amputated.  After discovering this upon waking, the patient was traumatized by the experience.  In a story arch that involved having "closure", Veronica found his post-surgery amputated leg, still sealed in its plastic bag and brought it to him.  That's pretty dramatic.

 The character of Sonia was caring for a middle-aged woman who was brought in unconscious.  She was a "Jane Doe", found in the bathroom of a run down doughnut shop.  HIV positive with multiple conditions, the woman was dying.  A charm bracelet was her only clue to the woman's identity and with the help of a police officer and friend, she was able to locate the woman's son.  The man disowned his mother as a "drunk and a liar".  Ultimately, Sonia stayed with the woman until she passed.

The newbie, Chloe was charged with a patient who was suspected of being a drug addict because of his odd behaviors.  Later, she would take it upon herself to use a fetal heart monitor to hear the sound of an artery near rupture inside his head.

These cases, particularly that of Sonia, remind me of a cover story ADVANCE did last year about a nurse in Templeton, CA who was able to convince hospital administration to keep a homeless man admitted for weeks, even after he was stabilized, until she discovered his identity and found a home for him.  He was completely alone in the world.  Eventually, she discovered his name and was able to place him in assisted living.  Even after the fact, she visited him twice each week to do his laundry, cut his hair and provide companionship until his passing.

What does it really mean to be a patient advocate?  That term is passed around quite a bit, but how far would you go or have you gone to intervene for a patient? 


posted by Luke Cowles


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