Advocating – What’s “Friendly” Got to Do With It?

It’s a simple question, but it has stirred some controversy.  It’s the word “friendly.”

Colleague and fellow passionate advocate Bart Windrum got (as my mother would say) his blood in a bubble after reading an article about engaging a patient advocate to help you navigate your healthcare, recently published in a Tampa newspaper.

In a list of tips about how to advocate for someone else, one tip said, “In hospitals ask, in a friendly way, that every pill, every injection, ….”

Bart thinks that’s ridiculous. He believes “friendly” comes across as “Beg. Acquiesce. Place yourself beneath again, some more.”

Bart is an author of  Notes from the Waiting Room. He knows what he is talking about.  Bart suggests we be business-like.  I agree.

Business-like may be a term lost on some who don’t operate in a business environment.  So I call it commanding respect.  To gain respect, which is so necessary in any medical setting, you must command it. You earn it by your actions and approach.

(Please note — that does not say “demand respect” — I believe that is impossible in any medical setting unless the other person fears you — another post for another day.)

How will you command that respect?  By being diplomatic and concise.  Start with polite. Let them know you have specific expectations and want accurate information. Earn / command the respect of those who can get you what you (your patient) needs.  If you don’t get the information or action you need in a fair amount of time (some actions require seconds or minutes, others can wait a half hour) then become assertive.  Never, ever become aggressive unless it is life and death and you are being ignored.

Here’s an example I got from Charles Inlander, a gentleman who was advocating for patients before most realized they needed it.  He was in the hospital, and needed a nurse’s help in the middle of the night.  He pushed the call button a number of times and got no response. (Does THAT sound familiar!) So finally he picked up the hospital phone, dialed “O” to get the operator, asked for the nurses’ station on his floor, told the person who answered what need needed, and seconds later the nurse showed up in his room.  (I love these kinds of ideas!)

What’s your experience?   Have you advocated for a loved one in a hospital?  Did “friendly” work when you actually needed something? Or did you find yourself having to be more definite and concise?

Did you command respect?

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1 thought on “Advocating – What’s “Friendly” Got to Do With It?”

  1. Hi Trisha,

    I like diplomatic and concise. Those are good words. I might replace “expectations” with “concerns”, at least to start. If we discuss our concerns we can mutually agree upon any expectations. After a working relationship is established, I think expectations will emerge as a matter of course as providers and advocates get to know one another in a working context.

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Trisha Torrey
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