Patient Advocacy – A Voice For The Voiceless
By Maria Vigodsky, M.Ed, BCPA, CRC, BCP, Independent Patient Advocate
I had the privilege of serving as an advocate for a religious clergy member who was hospitalized for COVID in 2021. He went from perfectly healthy one day to a medical crisis the next.
Having difficulty breathing, the patient went to the hospital, tested positive for Covid, and was quarantined for three weeks in ICU. Following this, I was by his bedside as an advocate, for at least a few hours each day, for the next eight weeks. It was often touch and go as he experienced double pneumonia, stomach infections, intubation/ventilator, feeding tube, transfers to and from ICU, and eventually transfer to a rehab hospital.
My client was well-loved, and the hospital had an excellent reputation. However, like most hospitals during COVID, they were understaffed and overworked. Although well-meaning, the hospital staff did not have time to sit with him and ensure proper nourishment (a process that took about 2 hours for each meal), but he appreciated that I could. Sadly, I saw many full trays taken away from rooms where no one was by a patient’s bedside.
Physical therapy would come by and call out from the door to ask my client if he wanted PT. They would often want to move on to the next room if there was no response because he was sleeping or out of it. Instead, I’d awaken him, give him a sip of water, and then ask if he wanted physical therapy. He'd always say «yes.» It was his choice, but it would hopefully help get him stronger and out of the hospital quicker.
My Ability To Be On Site was Important
With all his complications, several specialists and therapists were involved in his care. Each would arrive randomly throughout the day. As I could be at the bedside, I could relay what one specialist was doing to another. My role enhanced provider communication, as often notes still needed to be documented in the Electronic Health Record or the nurse's notes due to the workload. More clarity was required for orders to be carried out from individual doctors. As I took notes during each visit, I helped clarify treatment recommendations that reduced duplication and medical errors.
I helped to ensure there was collaboration amongst the healthcare team. This greatly benefited my client but was also appreciated by the specialists. My presence as a patient advocate was used in many other ways during my client’s hospital stay, including medication monitoring, 2nd opinion options, diagnostic testing follow-up, and community resource gathering — to name a few.
A Good Outcome
Overall, my patient survived but lost 11 weeks of his life. He is fully recovered but doesn’t remember anything while hospitalized – a blessing but also terrifying. Thankfully, as his advocate, I could speak for him when he couldn’t and ensured his dignity, wishes, and helped to see that safe quality care was provided. Thank you for reading this story. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to put them in the comment section, or you can contact me. My contact information is below.
Maria Vigodsky, M.Ed, BCPA, CRC, BCP is a board-certified patient advocate and has over 25 years in the healthcare field, including serving as Director of Patient Access and Vice President of Patient Experience. She is passionate about helping others navigate the complicated area of healthcare today and being that voice for the voiceless. To learn more about Maria's work, visit her website is www.mariavigodsky.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org