Why Healthcare Advocacy? Mary Anne Hardy’s Story
I came of age in the 70s in the time of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” when women began to question the health care system. I started work as a hospital maternity nurse and loved working with women who had the most complicated high-risk pregnancies before birth. Caring for these women physically and emotionally was challenging and very rewarding.
The way I thought about medical care changed dramatically, however, with one patient. My patient lost her baby at about 4 and a half months because she experienced cramping and didn’t know it might mean she was having early contractions. We successfully treated that condition at my hospital, and I believed that had she known, it would have prevented her loss.
I later learned that research on the question was less clear, but I wished she had had the chance to save her baby. I’ve never forgotten about her and because of her, I pursued a graduate degree public health.
In my first public health job, I began to see for myself how fractured health care truly was. Then as a Nurse Consultant for a small company here in Maryland, the prevention focus was different: that when people have enough information, they can make well-informed health and medical decisions, leading to more effective health care and better outcomes. We were able to show that this process worked.
As health care has changed over time, people have become lost in the hospital-industrial complex. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had people tell me their nightmare stories! And I learned first-hand with my own parents’ experiences. I understand the many aspects of health care challenges that people face.
I have always believed that each person’s voice should be heard loudly and clearly as part of the health care equation; that while health care providers have great expertise, they rarely know their patients as well as patients themselves. Patient empowerment, patient-centered, and shared decision-making are too slowly becoming part of the health care lexicon.
Health care advocacy is one way people can make their health care more effective and safe until the whole system gets fixed, which seems such a long way off. I help people make sense of the medical maze, express their needs clearly, get answers to questions they didn’t even know to ask, and find their way.