Running Interference on the Unit

If you’ve had experience with other types of hospitals, you know that even in good facilities it’s possible to encounter an overbearing nurse, a doctor who doesn’t listen well or some sort of aggravating glitch in care. To get the best care possible, you will have to advocate for your child.

There are three obstacles to advocating well.

  1. Your own emotions are running high. You will need to use caution to avoid overreacting or jumping to conclusions. If your child relates an event that has distressed him or seems to have been handled badly, take notes on his version of what happened. Remind yourself that your child is not well, and his perception of what occurred may not be accurate. This will help you approach staff with an open mind. Questions like “My son seems upset about what he says took place with _______________. Can you tell me about that?” are going to get a more honest reply than if you bluster in with something accusatory.
  2. You don’t know how this particular system works. Be pleasant, form alliances with as many staff as possible, get to know people by name and dress in respectable clothes when you visit. Be a reasonable human being. Take lots of notes. If you have a concern and you’ve spoken up about it several times and still aren’t getting a response, put it in writing. You may need to quietly ask one of the staff members you’ve befriended how to get X to happen, or who is in charge of Y. If you are getting stonewalled, push it up the administrative chain.
  3. Staff members vary in how responsive they are. Some will be caring and proactive, some will be okay, and you may encounter a few who seem to be phoning it in. The most important consideration here is that any human connection you create with staff is a good thing. The more you can get the empathy going, the more likely it is that people will be kinder. If you have a partner, divvy up who will play bad cop and who will be the good cop. (These roles can change, by the way, depending on which shift you’re dealing with, and which of you has developed rapport with a given staff member.)

As with any other type of hospital visit, you will find it easier to figure out what is going on if you take good notes during each meeting or after every conversation.