In the hospital, there are often many things happening rapidly and simultaneously to stabilize and treat the patient. The patient may or may not be conscious or lucid, and there might be family members present who are observing the activities.
If you are a loved one on the sidelines watching resuscitative efforts or even just regular treatment, you could see something potentially harmful to your loved one occurring or about to occur. You want to speak up, but could that work against you?
Would speaking up alienate your loved one’s care team?
That’s the fear of relatives and partners of over half the patients treated in the ICU at one major medical facility in another state. Over 100 family members of ICU patients participated in the face-to-face ICU survey, and an additional 1,000+ contributed online.
The specific focus of the research was to determine the level of comfort of the patient’s family members to speak up and address any perceived safety, medical or hygiene issues related to their loved one’s care. Below are some reasons they gave for hesitating to speak up:
- Not knowing to whom to address their concerns in the patient-care hierarchy
- Not wanting to be perceived as a “troublemaker”
- Believing the care team was “too busy” to stop and address their concerns
- The above each comprised an approximate third of the reasons some family members declined to voice their concerns over patients’ treatment.
- Timing matters when speaking up
During active resuscitative efforts, it is usually best to wait. But speaking out about an allergy to latex, morphine, iodine or another medication is prudent. Never assume that because something might be on a patient’s chart that the medical staff read it – especially in an emergency.
A shift change in the culture must occur
Being a good patient advocate includes protecting the patient from acts of malpractice whenever possible. To best protect the patients entrusted to their care, medical professionals must cultivate an atmosphere of trust and collaboration among the treatment team, the patient, their family members and loved ones.