An advocate’s first priority is to alleviate the patient’s suffering and to help them cope with their illnesses
A patient advocate understands that his client is not a laboratory rat. A patient’s right to compassion and kindness from every hospital staff member is undisputed. Additionally, a patient also has the right to voice grievances and complaints and have those redressed promptly. If a patient for some reason can’t do this himself, he can always seek help from the advocate.
Doctors Who Listen Reduce Their Patients’ Pain
The late Anatole Broyard, essayist and former editor of the New York Times Book Review, wrote eloquently about the psychological and spiritual challenges of facing metastatic prostate cancer. “To the typical physician,” he wrote, “my illness is a routine incident in his rounds while for me it’s the crisis of my life. I would feel better if I had a doctor who at least perceived this incongruity... I just wish he would... give me his whole mind just once, be bonded with me for a brief space, survey my soul as well as my flesh, to get at my illness, for each man is ill in his own way.”
Healthcare professionals are intimately involved with every aspect of life, right from birth to death. It is the only profession, where no matter what is going on in their personal life, their first priority must be their patient - and as a patient advocate your task is to remind them that their patients come first. They are blessed to be granted such a huge privilege, which is why it is alarming to hear of horror stories about the utterly shabby way in which some doctors treat their patients. What gives them the right to undermine the dignity of a patient?
Let me illustrate this with the case of an elderly man (78), who has a brain stroke and is left with his right side paralysed. He is admitted into a government hospital, where the staff is so overworked or time-strapped, they have little time to indulge a “senile, old man.” They don’t understand that the patient is scared to death about the long-term implications of his immobility, and why he demands so much attention from his attendants.
Modern medicine’s emphasis on the technological and pharmacological treatment of symptoms overlooks the fact that recovery from disease and trauma requires healing on all levels: emotional, social, and spiritual. The outcome of a clinical intervention also depends on the manner in which it is provided - and the doctor’s personality is often as important as his technical skill. For example, some patients may be more comfortable receiving individual counseling, while others (e.g. breast cancer survivors) may benefit more from group support, where they are able to share their experiences with each other. These are carefully considered decisions that only an empathetic doctor or advocate would be able to take on the patient’s behalf.