Hospital hires patient advocate
It was Mother’s Day 2016.
Brittany Wilson was sitting in the Carson Valley Medical Center emergency department feeling otherwise helpless, waiting for news on her mom.
Emergency staff had detected an unruptured aneurysm in her mother’s brain.
“Something like that can often go undetected, or it bursts right away and the patient is gone,” Wilson said. “The staff was amazing through the whole experience. From admitting to the nursing staff to the doctor, everyone worked so well together and everyone was there for us every step of the way.”
It was a holiday, though, and finding an available brain surgeon in the greater region was proving to be difficult.
“We were preparing for the worst,” Wilson said. “My mom was asking to see her priest. It was a chaotic couple of hours.”
Sitting there, just down the mountain from the hospital where she was born, just down the road from where she’d grown up and just downstairs from where her childhood pediatrician had practiced, Wilson’s instincts began to kick in.
At the time, she was working for Tahoe Forest Health System in Truckee as a combination patient navigator/advocate, patient financial counselor and customer service representative.
Transport via Care Flight was arranged to the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. Knowing her way around the California healthcare system, Brittany began making calls to secure authorizations for the surgeries her mother would be undergoing upon arrival in San Francisco.
Two brain surgeries later, Wilson’s mother made a full recovery.
“It was a miracle, and the staff at CVMC had a huge part in the fact that she is still with us today,” Wilson said.
The experience proved to be a preview into her future.
A little more than three years since that day in the emergency department, Wilson has stepped into the role of Patient Advocate for Carson Valley Medical Center.
“I just like helping people,” she said. “”Especially in a healthcare setting where many times, they have been through something significant. Pain isn’t fun for anyone. Being able to be there to help our patients find answers is something that really appeals to me.”
Carson Valley Medical Center created its Patient Advocate position at the close of 2017 in order to establish a channel for patients to get help navigating the sometimes daunting and complex world of healthcare.
“We wanted to have someone here specifically to be a touchstone for our patients, to dig in and find solutions to concerns in a timely and empathetic manner. Everyone at CVMC is an advocate for our patients, but this role is designed to be that extra set of eyes on the patient experience and assist with any areas for improvement that we hear through patient and family feedback,” said CVMC Director of Operations Shannon Albert.
Wilson, who joined the CVMC family as part of the business office in 2017, said the interaction with patients was the strongest draw to her new post.
“People just want to be heard,” she said. “They want you to understand where they are coming from and that you can relate to what they are going through. Just having an open mind and open ears is the most important thing. To me, just communicating that I am on their side, that they have a voice, it helps put people more at ease.”
Wilson was born at South Lake Tahoe’s Barton Hospital and grew up in a bilingual home in Gardnerville before graduating from Douglas High School in 2012.
“My mom is from Mexico, so I was raised speaking English and Spanish every day,” Brittany said. “It was your normal childhood, so of course we had frequent trips to CVMC for cuts and scrapes and fevers and so on. I got to know this place very well.”
Now she and her husband, Justin – who works in Medical Records at CVMC – are raising their two boys in Gardnerville.
“It’s a family organization and it is an organization that allows for a lot of career growth,” she said. “My husband started in customer service, moved on to medical records and is currently in school for healthcare administration. Once he finishes, I’d like to go for the same thing.”
Anyone seeking assistance from CVMC’s patient advocate can contact Wilson at 775-782-1606 or firstname.lastname@example.org.