Who’s the Right Call: The Doctor or the Nurse?

May 6th, 2018

By: Sharon Roth Maguire, MS, RN, GNP-BC, Chief Clinical Quality Officer, BrightStar Care

If your loved one receives in-home care, any new illnesses, injuries, or symptoms can be upsetting and confusing. How do you know when to call the doctor and when it’s best to start with your in-home nurse?
 
In a life-threatening emergency, you should always call 911. Emergencies older adults might face include:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart attack
  • Serious fall
  • Stroke
  • Sudden dizziness, confusion, or disorientation
  • Trouble breathing

But for less urgent needs, you potentially can avoid a trip to the urgent care clinic or emergency room by first checking with your nurse or doctor. 

When to call the doctor

Outside of emergencies, older adults need to see the doctor when a medical condition gets worse or a new problem develops. There are also important wellness checks and regular check-ups that should not be neglected.
 
If you have to call 911 for your loved one or take them to the emergency room, make sure to update their primary care doctor and home care nurse on what’s happened. The care team might need to modify or add new restrictions, medications, or treatments into your loved one’s care plan.

When to call your loved one’s home care nurse

Many healthcare-related issues can go to their in-home care nurse first. Our BrightStar Care nurses are experienced RNs who are seasoned at narrowing down what’s wrong, and determining if the client’s doctor needs to be involved.
 
Every BrightStar Care franchise has a registered nurse who serves as director of nursing and is actively involved with each client in a number of ways, such as:

  • Care plan creation
  • Home visits to see how the client is doing and whether they’re satisfied with their care
  • Regular check-ins with clients and their loved ones about how the client is doing
  • Supervision of in-home caregivers

Because our nurses see their clients regularly, they tend to know when something’s not right. They can investigate whether the client has experienced any new symptoms, and they can bring their concerns to the client or their loved ones. This nurse advocacy is one way BrightStar Care delivers A Higher Standard of Care to our clients and their families. If our certified nursing assistants (CNAs) notice something wrong while they’re assisting with daily routine care, they know to report it to one of our nurses so we can investigate these potential issues.
 
If the issues are dangerous or life-threatening, your loved one’s nurse may advise calling 911 or going to the emergency room. For other issues, they might do some detective work to determine whether your loved one is sticking to their care plan, such as taking all medications when indicated or getting enough sleep, before recommending a call to the doctor’s office.
 

Save time with fewer appointments

With nursing care at home, your loved one might not need to go to the doctor’s office as often for routine care. Our in-home nurses can handle many of these skilled nursing needs for clients, such as:

  • Complex wound care
  • Diabetes management
  • Intravenous infusion therapy
  • Ventilator care 

Don’t be afraid to lean on them as a resource if you or your loved one has questions about their care or if you need help determining when it’s time to take things to the next level.
 
To learn more about how your loved one might benefit from our expert in-home care team, call 866-618-7827 or contact a BrightStar Care® home care agency near you.