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Teaching Hospitals Use Team Approach to Medical Care

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After a serious car accident, one physician learned this lesson the hard way. "I needed surgery quickly, but I had to insist that they slow down and answer my questions about the procedure," says Mack Lipkin, MD, director of the primary care residency program and professor of medicine at New York University.

Lipkin tells WebMD that as interns begin their residency, hospital functions can slow down a bit. "Studies show that there's no change in quality of care at this time of year, but it's a good idea to have some extra family support along with you," he advises.

Consumer advocates couldn't agree more. "Just say no, if you're confused about the treatment plan," says Charles Inlander, president of People's Medical Society and co-author of Take This

Book to the Hospital With You. "You're not in custody, you're the customer. And regardless of visiting hours, you can have an advocate present around the clock".

While mourning the death of her husband, one woman regrets leaving his bedside. "At the time, I didn't know that I could've stayed after visiting hours," says Mary Albright, 71, a former teacher and grandmother of three. "Bill might have been more relaxed and less afraid if I'd been there all night. Besides, it's good to have two pairs of ears when the doctors come around in the morning."

Caring for her husband taught her how to navigate in a teaching hospital, Albright says. "I always had a list of questions and I insisted on clear, simple answers," she tells WebMD. "In standing up for our rights, I gradually developed a sense of faith and trust in the physician team."

But if conflicts arise, patients have the right to dismiss a doctor or ask for a second opinion. Most hospitals now have a patient or consumer advocate on staff. Looking back on a few occasions, Albright says she also might have asked, "How long have you been on duty, and how much sleep have you had?"

 

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