Speech writing, complete!

Hello, my name is Amy Somday.

It is my honor to speak to you today, thank you for having me.

My life changed forever when I started my journey with Virginia Mason 5 years ago,

Our devotion to the patient is like no other I have seen,

and for each employee to be afforded a voice to better their job is extraordinary!

I came from Eastern Washington where I worked at a Critical Access Hospital for 10 years and in County government finance for 2 years.

 I am a mom, grandma of 6, sister, aunt, and daughter.

I am an amateur photographer, and write poetry.

My story is about my journey as an advocate for my elderly mother, and the importance of the advocate’s role as a bridge between patients in need and a busy healthcare system.

What do you think when you hear the word advocate?  

Do you think it is something large, imposed, or governmental?

 Or do you think on a more personal level… caring, understanding, helping?

Advocates are all around us, they push their mother’s wheelchair, they sit at their father’s bedside, they interpret for the deaf, they feed and clothe the disabled. They are the eyes;  ears;  and the voice of reason. They are the ones who remember and the ones who understand the patient on a personal level.

It is crucial for a patient to not feel a loss of control in their own healthcare. How often does one say the doctor is going to do this or that TO meOR he wrote a prescription FOR me”?

Why do we not say “my physician and I think the best course of action should be…”?

 Virginia Mason’s determination to transform healthcare invites this partnership to be promoted and explored. Our mission to keep the patient at the top should hold us to task in this engagement.

This is my Mama, her name is Dorothy.  She is 87 years old and the cause of daily laughter, extreme love and total exasperation at times! She is my heart ❤ 

My life changed when I asked her to live with me in 2010. She is fairly independent with a few exceptions. She walks with a walker, gets tired easily, does not drive or travel well. She wears hearing aids and reads lips. If you do not face her so she can see you speak you may as well be talking in another room.

She is at the stage in her life that she does not remember well though most say she is sharp as a tack. I see the forgetfulness that others do not.

As an advocate I sit among physicians whose demands & constraints hinder them knowing a patient’s communication needs and a patient that does not understand the physician’s agenda.  

Where is the bridge that closes the gap between physician and patient?

  • Is it patient education?
  • Is it having an advocate?
  • Is it the physician slowing down?  

I believe all three are in order.

When I bring my mother to an appointment with a new provider I accompany her. She is from the “Oh I am fine” generation, where being ill is a weakness… So I watch the interaction between the two.  If I feel comfortable in the physician being thorough, clear… speaking up, enunciating and slowing down enough I do my best to drop my Mama off and let her go to her appointment by herself.

 I think she still needs that sense of independence.  If she has a new problem arise I accompany her so that I may know the course of action the physician wants her to take and see that it is followed when we get home.

 How does the physician know the patient is engaged in their care and understands the course of action when they leave? Does the patient understand their responsibility in their own care?

Do they, together, create a course of action that is clear, concise, agreed upon and documented for both parties?

My Mama fell in September 2011, breaking her kneecap. I insisted on her being brought to Virginia Mason and had to argue with the ambulance driver to get him to understand how serious I was. Had I not been there they would have taken her to a closer hospital and she would not have received the best care.

While she was in the hospital, Mama had a silent heart attack and she was moved from Orthopedics to the Telemetry unit. While there her kidneys began to shut down. I sat next to her as she lay in her bed, watching television. She was so very weak and for the first time in my life I felt like my Mama was going to leave me. Her pretty blue eyes faded in color and were almost gray.

At some point, upon seeing my mother in this state, knowing all I had been told, I began to lose my composure, which I knew I could not let my mother see. She needed me to be strong for her but my heart broke. I walked out of the room and began to cry. There at my side in the hallway was the PCT who watched the whole thing play out. She grabbed me and held me tight as I cried. She assured me that they would do everything possible to help my Mama. She told me to be brave when I felt like I couldn’t. She was so very kind and wonderful.

Each step of the way was emotional and every decision except the choice to come to VM was guided by knowledgeable staff

If you were to ask my mama about her hospital visit she does not remember the details. She has told me in our conversations that she was so out of it, and in pain, that people came at her in droves… then she will smile and tell me “That’s why I have you!!”

Unfortunately, so many of our patients do not have someone like myself to accompany them to medical appointments or procedures.

And of these patients who are aloneDo our providers and care givers understand the nuances of the patient’s comprehension level or communication style?

Several things that I believe would assist in the patient experience would be

Utilizing the Cerner flag to indicate patient is hard of hearing and the provider needs to speak up, face the patient squarely,   or maybe even repeat the question.

Make it Standard Practice to print the course of action the physician expects the patient to follow at home.

For Virginia Mason to embrace educating the community in what it means to be an  engaged partner in health care, not only addressing the patient, but engaging the advocate as well. 

Thank you again for allowing me to speak to you about patient advocacy. I am honored that you have taken the time to hear my story

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lionel
    Jul 26, 2013 @ 02:34:44

    hi amy , am sure many would have been inspired by your true sweet words, wishing you all the very best

    Reply

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