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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Patient? Client? Consumer? Some thoughts....

Below is an edited version of a response to an item posted on LinkedIn Working Nurses, the issue raised by Genevieve M. Clavreul, RN, Ph.D. is as follows:

One day I came across “The Martha Stewart Show” as it aired a segment dedicated to nurses and Nurses Week. It began with a brief discussion of the history of nursing over the past century or so, and I recognized many of the instruments from my youth and my early career in nursing. But what caught my fancy was how the nursing school representative, a nurse herself, continually referred to the patient as the “client,” and how she seemed to struggle while using the term, as if it was a foreign concept.

The replies thus far have already addressed this question and and its ramifications very well, reflecting the scope of experience and expertise of many working nurses. We have this issue in the UK - NHS also, indeed it is no doubt a global matter.

Mental health has 'client' and 'service user'. Health care IS a business, but a business that must be allied with professionalism. I know that goes without saying, but please bear with me. Use of 'patient' seems to denote dependency and not partnership and collaboration. Being a 'patient' you are compliant with your treatment, rather than concordant with insight into your care plan and the pros and cons of medication (intervention or non-intervention).

As nurses though we have a duty of care. Each nurse represents the profession and the terms we use reflect the values we hold in theory, practice and management (the business again).

On one level perhaps the multiplicity of terms reflects upon the complexity of health and social care and the many contexts 'nursing' takes place. The emphasis on 'recovery models', self-care, the expert patient, relapse prevention, well-being is a sign of the demographic trends and the rise of social media and e-health.

I understand that patiency is a key concept and question in formulating models of nursing: When does a patient become a patient and when does that period end? It is not wholly fashionable for nurses to act as advocates and yet I would argue that being in a 'business' nurses can / should / must advocate not just for the patient but for the health of the general population. Nurses should also look over their shoulder (that's business politics) and take cognizance of the first rule of first-aid. In this case you cannot be an advocate for personal, family, local, regional, national and global health if you become the casualty. By implication the profession - nursing - suffers too.

Will we reach a point were access to and the salience of 'patiency' as a -
human currency - has to be enshrined in human rights? What title do we grant to our seniors in whatever environment: their home of twenty years, their hospital bed, their Room 123 of The Nursing Home?

In any business the ethos and strategy for success should be to make the 'business' transparent. I'm in London at the moment at an IT event. One presentation focussed upon the 'user experience' - UX. Customer service in health is essential [ CX - CareX ! ], but this should not be a 'business' add-on. This is crucial to all caring professions. Rather than be thrown from side-to-side by the science OR art of health and its client OR patient equivalent we can embrace the dialogue and make a positive difference as we do so.

The astute student / learner will ask the person concerned how they wish to be addressed. As future nurses and nurse leaders in the 21st century they might also consider those populations around the world who would very much like to hear the utterance of 'patient': not in reference to themselves, but their infants and children ...

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