Role Reversal in Care: Good Intentions Get Scary!

Last Friday, I spent the day with my mother in an Emergency Room and was reminded  that, sometimes, best intentions can “go sideways”, even in medicine.

Here’s what happened.

Mom’s nurse went over three medicines an ER doc had just prescribed for her. One was a med she formerly took, but her internist discontinued because it didn’t work well for her. Knowing that patients’ electronic medical records can be out of date, I shared this info with the nurse.  She responded…

“Oh, so you don’t want your mom to get this medicine?”
“No”,  I answered, “I am just letting you know her history.”
“Ok, I’ll tell her doctor that you don’t want this prescribed for her.” 

Have to admit, her responses gripped me in fear – there was NO way I wanted responsibility for deciding the medications my mother received, especially in the emergency situation she was in.

So… I spoke up more directly:

“I am not a doctor. I can’t make that call. I just want mom’s doctors to have all the facts so they can make fully informed decisions treating her today.”

Believe it or not, this type of scenario plays out a lot more often than you may thinkmedical providers sometimes do a “role reversal”,  shifting medical decision-making to patients or family members when they show involvement. This practice seems to stem from a good trend in medical care known as “shared decision-making.”

Well intentioned ­– and based on the sound belief that patients and families are entitled to all facts in their care – shared decision-making is not meant, however, to put the burden of making any final medical decisions on patients/families (most of whom don’t have medical degrees!)

To be fair, we’ve heard many stories of people who’ve overridden their doctors’ recommendations based on emotion and Google research. That role reversal is concerning, as well.

So… based on our experience as advocates, we offer this thought: try your best to partner with your doctors for the best care.

If you’re uncomfortable about anything in your care – or your loved ones’ care – say so. Most providers will appreciate your input! Keep this quick “equation for care” in mind:

Good facts + Good conversations + Good intentions = Good decisions

Next week, we’ll share another scenario that calls for initiating a good conversation with your doctor.  In the meantime, if you have  tips for speaking up to “partner up” with doctors, we’d love to hear them!

Drop us a note!