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3 Ways Frontline Nurses Can Heal Healthcare


3 Ways Frontline Nurses Can Heal Healthcare

October 27, 2019   

How we talk about healthcare makes a difference, according to Marty Makary, MD, MPH, surgical oncologist, as well as health policy expert and New York Times bestselling author.

“We spend a lot of time in school learning medical literacy, but little time learning healthcare literacy. Understanding the money games of medicine and how they undermine our bedside calling to care for people when they are vulnerable is a prerequisite to re-building the public trust,” Makary says.

In his latest book, The Price We Pay, Makary shares stories of patients being over-charged for care and then sued when they can’t pay. He points to a movement of transparent prices and how it's disrupting the business of medicine. He also talks about the dangers of too much care and the movement to address appropriateness. “Nurses working directly with patients have a unique perspective to call attention to what is right and best for our patients as healthcare professionals try to regain the public’s trust in healthcare,” Makary acknowledges.

Here are three ways he says nurses on the frontline can get healthcare back to its charitable roots.

1. Speak openly and question what concerns you.

Too often fear of retribution prevents a nurse from speaking up, especially in an environment where the surgeon establishes hierarchical control. Whether it’s the risk of an adverse patient event in the OR or questioning an opioid prescription for postoperative pain management, nurses must voice their concerns as advocates for their patients, Makary notes.

“Isn’t the opioid crisis one manifestation of too much care?” he questions. “Healthcare is in a crisis of appropriateness and nurses deserve the power to change this.”

2. Talk about healthcare costs.

“The operations I do today use the same equipment, anesthetics, sutures, and paid staff that I had 10 years ago. So how is it that health insurance costs are rising by double digits, year after year?” Makary questions.

He believes nurses have the power to question costly waste, overtreatment, and a lack of openness around the cost of care. “Asking about price and quality transparency are the stepping stones to a more honest and patient-centered system. Nurses are now speaking up about the costs of care.”

3. See the good.

Despite the negative aspects of healthcare that we see and even work with, we also must see the good, Makary says. “I’m extremely optimistic about the trust our patients still have in us. They are hungry for honest, high-quality care and it will be the nurses and other providers who uphold healthcare’s deep roots in charity and good will. Those who champion these principles the most will distinguish themselves as leaders in the healthcare landscape of the future.”

Learn more from Makary about healing the American healthcare system at the AORN Leadership Summit in Anaheim March 28–April 1, 2020. He will also be signing copies of his book in Anaheim.