3 Ways RN Patient Advocates Can Help Navigate a Rehab Journey

3 Ways RN Patient Advocates Can Help Navigate a Rehab Journey
| by Andrea Bendig

As a registered nurse and patient advocate, I frequently receive calls from family members who have a loved one in a rehabilitation care facility. They call because they don’t feel that their family member is receiving the best care, and obviously, we all want the best care for those we love. Not knowing where to turn, they are looking for a professional to validate that their beliefs are true, or better yet, tell them that everything is okay. This blog will share three ways a registered nurse, patient advocate can help when your loved one is in a care facility. I will share a real situation and, of course, change the details and names to protect privacy.

The Situation

A client, named «Bill,» was in a rehabilitation facility following a hospitalization for an upper respiratory tract infection. He required IV antibiotics, and after battling the illness, he lost strength and the ability to walk well, so he was transferred to rehab for physical therapy. Bill’s only family member, «Jane,» had health challenges of her own and was concerned that Bill might not be receiving great care. Jane wasn’t able to visit Bill, so Jane believed that a patient advocate with healthcare experience would be a good fit for Bill.

During my initial visit to meet Bill, my observation alone (before even speaking to Bill or any staff in the facility) let me know that he wasn’t receiving the best care. Everyone deserves the highest quality of care. Optimal care helps facilitate a quicker recovery, shortens the length of stay, and lessens the chance of acquiring additional infections. As I completed a thorough review of Bill’s medical record, I found many areas where care needed improvement. Here, I will focus on only one.

How I Helped In Bill’s Situation:

1: Identified Gaps In Care.

I knew that Bill had a pressure ulcer on his buttock, yet he was sitting in a transport wheelchair without any cushion on the seat. This increases pressure on the buttock, which may make the pressure ulcer worse, and it can be painful. The wheelchair also did not have leg rests, and leg rests can assist in repositioning and alleviating pressure. Bill mentioned that he sat in this chair (which was not his) most of the day because he needed help getting in and out of the chair. Transport chairs are not comfortable for long periods of time. They are made for transport, as the name indicates.

2: Communicated With Healthcare Professionals.

As a registered nurse, I speak medical lingo with the facility nurses, physicians, and physical therapists. I know what the care plan should be, how it should be executed, who should be implementing it, and the right questions to ask. Here, I asked the charge nurse about the transport chair and pressure ulcer. The charge nurse reviewed the current wound care orders, and he introduced me to the physical therapy director.

The physical therapy director apologized and said that there should have been a gel cushion on the chair, and she immediately placed one on the chair. We also discussed ways to ensure Bill had assistance to transfer out of the transport chair throughout the day. We also developed a plan for securing a different wheelchair if Bill would need to be in one for long periods of time.

3. Reduced Family Stress Acting As a Clinical Liaison.

As a registered nurse and patient advocate, I’m able to be a clinical liaison between the patient, facility, and family. I was able to obtain updates from the facility and pass them on to Jane in a way that was easy for her to understand. This took the pressure off of Jane for making calls to the facility and experiencing additional stress related to not knowing which questions to ask or which healthcare professional to speak with. Jane said she felt much better knowing there was a medical professional advocating for Bill.

In summary, our healthcare system has weakened over the last several years, and while everyone deserves nothing but the best from it, this is not our current reality. Many healthcare professionals have left the field, and this has led to facilities being short-staffed. The quality of care has declined. If you find yourself worrying about the care your loved one is receiving, consider a registered nurse or patient advocate. They have the clinical expertise to find the problems and will work with passion to solve them, like I was able to do for Bill.