By Lucy Richardson, MD Anderson Staff Writer
Yes, it happens.
But when MD Anderson patients have a complaint, need assistance or encounter a problem with scheduling, there's someone on their side -- a patient advocate in the Department of Patient Advocacy and Guest Relations.
On their first visit to the hospital, MD Anderson patients are assigned a patient advocate in their disease center. This person will be available to them throughout their care.
"MD Anderson is such a large place. Patients need to know they have a person to call if they have concerns or questions. And that their confidentiality will be honored," says Barbara Bowman, vice president for patient services.
Advocates are available all day, every day. Whether it's about troubling side effects or customer service.
"We're here to help make any situation better," says Chris Hernandez, director of the department. "We want patients to bring issues to us. We're here to help. We'll do everything we can, as quickly as possible, to make a patient's experience a positive one."
Patient advocates are not medical practitioners.
"It's important that they're not," says Joan Armin, former associate director in the department. "We hire passionate, dedicated, compassionate people. They don't answer medical questions, but they do know everyone in the clinic. If a patient has a problem or a question, the advocate knows exactly who to turn to for an answer or solution."
Patient advocates are highly trained, skilled professionals. They are mediators, connectors, information sources, educators and, most important, listeners. They listen to patients no matter how long it takes.
"When we meet with patients or family members, we acknowledge the difficulty they are experiencing. Even though we didn't witness the problem and don't know exactly what happened, from this point on we are determined to turn their experience around," Hernandez says.
Location: Main Building, 1st floor, near elevator A, Room R1.1532