As nurses, we’re all familiar with our role in helping the care team provide patient-centered care. Focus is placed on making sure the patient’s culture, preferences, values, family, lifestyle, and circumstances are all taken care of. Patient-centered care is patient autonomy. And, we can ensure these needs are met for those we serve by advocating for the coordination of proper services, guiding communication with the care team, and empowering the patient to take an active role in the process.
The Career Alternative – Patient Navigators/Patient Care Guides in Patient-Centered Care
Although Patient Navigators are often found in staffed positions at hospitals or healthcare provider offices, this role can carry over to opportunities outside of these settings. To help navigate the options available in the healthcare system, some patients are in need of healthcare professionals like nurses to help guide them through an ever-changing, sometimes complicated system. And nurses know how to put their patients first!
Registered Nurses have performed in this role for years. And, more and more, this role is expanding outside of the hospital walls. So, to make the distinction between the two, I’ll use the term Patient Care Guide in the remainder of this article.
A Patient Care Guide, in short, helps the patient navigate the healthcare system with care coordination, advocates on the patient’s behalf in recognition of their wishes, assists with medical management of the patient’s diagnosis and offers support to help eliminate barriers to care including medical cost, access, and education… all in efforts to secure patient autonomy.
The Patient Care Guide can help patients see their way through the healthcare system by fulfilling several roles for the patient, and this is one avenue for nurses to become a nurse entrepreneur.
As a Patient Care Guide, you’ll find that you’ll help guide your patient through four major facets after a new diagnosis or as a consult for chronic care management. Those facets being connecting services, facilitating treatment, maintaining health and supporting the process.
1 – CONNECT – The Patient Care Guide helps link the patient to healthcare services. Chances are, if the patient has chronic illness, they may already have a care team in place and a Patient Care Guide can service the patient in this role as well. But for those patients new to the process, for instance, one just diagnosed with cancer, the Patient Care Guide can prove invaluable in getting the patient set-up for services necessary for optimum care. Services under this umbrella would include enlisting the patient’s help and their wishes in finding the right oncology providers and services, setting up new appointments, and helping patients understand their benefits in regards to their health insurance and the payment and reimbursement process.
2 – FACILITATE TREATMENT – Using your expertise as a nurse, you’ll often be in the position to help a patient cope with the multiple issues involved in the treatment process. To that end, you and the patient may identify multiple barriers to receiving treatment, and it’s your role to help reduce those barriers by tackling those obstacles head on. Barriers can include the lack of education regarding their diagnosis and treatment options, inadequate leave time from work to make vital appointments, as well as a common hindrance, the cost involved in care.
Facilitating treatment also involves making sure the patient is actively engaged in the process from their decision on their treatment options like their medication regime, choosing their ideal specialty care base on their comfort and values as it relates to provider choice, and being a patient advocate in the process.
3 – MAINTAIN – Maintenance of health can include many different aspects of a patient’s care, although it may not directly involve health, per se. Attention to these aspects of patient care can prove just as important in getting a patient’s health up to speed.
Maintaining health can involve securing adequate transportation to and from health care appointments and services, ensuring proper coverage and being attentive to changes in healthcare coverage for a progressive illness, setting a patient up with home care services, as well as attention to a patient’s needs at the end of life.
4 – SUPPORT – And last, but not least, and probably the most important is providing the patient with support as they navigate the system. By creating this type of working relationship with your patients, you help them make the decisions that are best for their health, their well-being, their family and their livelihood.
The attention you give your patient in the role of the Patient Care Guide can not only support them, but empower them as well.
Tips to Provide Patient-Centered Care by Becoming a Patient Care Guide
Find Your Focus
As nurses, it’s the nature of our careers to be fluid. Oftentimes, if you’re in the field of nursing long enough, you’ll find interests in many fields and will occasionally change from one specialty to another. From oncology, chronic diseases, to mother-baby services, we all have a knack and love for a particular nursing specialty that requires constant care, attention and focus on the patient. As a Patient Care Guide working in your ideal specialty of care, you can use your expertise to help patients through such a challenging time.
Having your certifications not only positions you for success and gives you the confidence in knowing you have all of the needed tools to plan patient care and management, it also assures the patient of your know-how and helps you gain their trust when looking for an appropriate advocate for care.
The best way to start something new is to simply get started. Make a solid plan to launch your new venture. That can involve researching the Patient Care Guide role, identifying potential providers that you may be able to partner with, and marketing and branding your services, to name a few.
Tell the world (family, friends, and potential clients) about your plan to become a Patient Care Guide. It can be such a scary thought, but once you do it, you’ll find that you’re not only accountable to yourself, but you’ve made yourself accountable to other people. It’ll be harder to back down once you’ve let others in on your goals. And, you may even have others interested in your progress, so that will often help get you in gear.
Marsha Battee is a Lifestyle Design Strategist for Nurse Entrepreneurs.
Her signature program, the 30 Day Startup Challenge, a part of the Bossy Nurse Mastermind, helps nurses clarify their message and take an idea to launch (or relaunch) in 30 Days. Marsha is also the owner of RN Getaways where nurses “travel for fun, not work.”
With a passion for business & a commitment to self-care, Marsha hosted Wealth & Wellness LIVE in Atlanta in April 2015. This event guides nurses and nurse entrepreneurs in the care of their mind, body, soul & business. Get all of the details here.