For most RTs, “patient advocacy” means going out into your community and doing something extra or something more than what you would normally do at the bedside.
Jamie Causey, BSRT, RRT, AE-C, fits that description. The clinical supervisor at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, NC, is a member of the board of directors for the Mecklenburg County Asthma Coalition. She was also recently honored as a runner-up for the inaugural AARC and The FACES Foundation National Respiratory Patient Advocacy Award at AARC Congress 2017 in Indianapolis
As such, she’s involved in a range of activities aimed at improving life for people with asthma, from an annual asthma walk to patient and community education.
But ask Causey what “patient advocacy” means to her and it’s soon clear that organized activities like her role in the local asthma coalition are only part of the equation.
Take the time to listen
“You don’t have to be in a special role to advocate for a patient,” said Causey. “Just being a bedside respiratory therapist is enough. Most of my big wins for patients have come out of just listening to their stories or having general conversations.”
Causey recalls one patient encounter that really explains what she means.
“My patient’s mom was a single mother and it had come up during asthma education that her daughter’s asthma medications cost her $300 a month,” Causey said.
The mom went on to tell Causey about how hard she was working and how she had just purchased a home for her family. She made too much money to qualify for assistance, but given the cost of those asthma medications she felt like she couldn’t afford the insurance premiums through her employer.
In the course of the average RT’s busy day, it’s easy to see how a therapist might sympathize with patient problems like that and then move on. Causey did something about them.
“I helped her find coupons for her daughter’s medications, explained how she could possibly come out better with her work insurance, and then connected her with a caseworker at the hospital that was able to find her other assistance programs,” Causey said.
Be the key
Causey believes patient advocacy efforts like this one can and should begin as early as an RT student’s clinical rotation and never stop.
“Sometimes patients just don’t know about assistance programs, coupons, or other things,” she said. “Helping someone navigate the medical field, even with something as simple as a coupon, can make a difference for that person.”
She wants to be the key that unlocks the opportunity for a better quality of life for her patients and urges others to do the same.
“What seems very small to you could be the world to someone else,” Causey said.