Thursday, April 26th, 2018

S Shopper Stories


Helping patients and care givers navigate medical care

by Kym Bach

Joyce S. Schmidt, RN, BSN, MSN

Joyce S. Schmidt, RN, BSN, MSN

Joyce Schmidt, owner of Medical Care Advocacy Group, has a clear mission; to advise and advocate for a patient in all aspects of their medical care when distance, lack of medical knowledge, or other factors leave families at a loss. Her support for families who are trying to navigate the medical process for their loved one is much needed relief for many. 

A master’s prepared nurse with over forty years experience in critical nursing, nursing education, and long-term care, Joyce is able to access resources within the health care system generally not available to the public. By developing a good working relationship with care coordinators at each hospital as well as long term care facilities in the Tidewater area she is able to provide her guidance in every phase of hospitalization and/or nursing care. Joyce is also a certified senior advocate with the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants (NAHAC) and is listed on their registry as a advocate for the Hampton Roads area. 

“For so many years, I saw how hard it can be on the elderly when they are trying to communicate with their health care professionals. Many times they go home without the right information, and statistics show that if they don’t go home with the right knowledge, the right medications and the right level of care, they will return to the hospital.” Joyce says thoughtfully, “If I can be an advocate, a negotiator, a support for someone who needs me, then the place I can help the most is at that patient’s bedside.”      

Joyce will develop a personalized, detailed care plan for each client centered on the medical diagnoses and the wishes of the patient and family. They will know exactly what the diagnosis is and what their options are. She will explore and respect family’s wishes for desired quality of life and will evaluate the status of all therapies including spiritual, mental, physical, and occupational wellbeing. 

“Five thousand Americans turn 65 every day. This is a very large percentage of our population and they are all in varying degrees of health. Many of those 65 year olds’ parents are still living, a silver tsunami of sorts,” Joyce explains. “And a lot of those children are living in other cities which means when their parents become ill and aren’t getting the proper care and medical attention, it can be quite frustrating.”    

“Many elderly do not remember to ask the proper questions, don’t remember the answers, may be intimidated by their doctor or they take whatever the doctor says as gospel. And sometimes, for many different reasons, they may not be able to understand a foreign accent. That’s where I come in.” Joyce continues, “I will accompany the client to medical appointments for the purpose of asking appropriate questions and interpreting medical language.    

“When a patient is in a hospital or nursing home my job is to advocate for them. I make sure I get HIPAA agreements signed so I can visit the patient and communicate with hospitalists, medical specialists or other staff members as needed to coordinate therapies in order to ensure the desired outcome is in the best interest of the patient and the family,” Joyce explains. “I work with the M.D. and Nurse Practitioner to assure referrals and orders are properly placed in a timely manner. Also, I interpret lab reports, medical diagnoses, medical treatments and protocols for patients and family members. I make sure that everything is pulled together for the patient so that the family understands exactly what is going on.” 
Sometimes people want to care for their loved one at home, but this can be a hardship for many because of their illness. “It is extremely important to me to keep my client’s health, quality of life and wellbeing central in the planning of outcomes, and I can provide community resources to families to help facilitate the patient’s transition if independent living is no longer an option,” Joyce explains further. “Whether it’s home health care, hospice care, a nursing home, or at home care, it’s my job to help the patient and family understand their placement choices and what they can afford.”

“Hospice can be a difficult choice and I will explore and respect a family’s wishes for the desired quality of life and help with a plan to ensure proper administration. Everyone passes differently just as everyone lives differently, and from a nursing and human standpoint there is something rewarding about guiding a family through the process of dying. Explaining to them in what stage of dying their loved one is and letting the family know what they can do can be very helpful,” Joyce remembers. “I had a patient who was 98 and we didn’t think it would be long. However, she lingered for a few days. It was a beautiful scene because everyone knew she was moving on, she was at peace and they were at peace, that she had lived a good life and she was well loved. They told loving stories about her and she eventually slipped away peacefully.” 

If I can be an advocate, a negotiator,
a support for someone who needs me,
then the place I can help the most
is at that patient’s bedside.

—     Joyce Schmidt

“I’m paid to make sure people are taken care of.  I’m a nurse at heart and I want to do everything I can to help somebody,” Joyce says. Another service she provides is an in-home assessment. “Most families’ goal is to keep their loved one in their home as long as they can physically and mentally stay; and now there are security systems available that have security buzzers along the baseboards that will alert security if they fall. These systems can tell you whether your loved one has opened their pill drawer that day or not. I will give the family a written report upon completion of their loved one’s home assessment.”

Another way of assisting her patients who may be limited in their ability to travel to a doctor’s office is an organization called Visiting Physicians. “It’s the old fashioned way of taking care of patients by doctors making home visits.  Many people are not aware of this organization and their services. If someone gets more and more confined to their home because they can no longer afford transportation to a doctor, and sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room is no longer tolerable this allows them to see a physician while in the comfort of their own home. These doctors are capable of prescribing medications, lab studies, x-rays, ultrasounds, etc.”

Joyce has a rich personal life in addition to a rewarding career. She likes to contribute to the community by being on the medical committee for Hope House, an organization dedicated to serving the needs of mentally and physically challenged adults. She and the committee support these individuals by anonymously providing advice or treatment if someone is having trouble.  
Joyce has three children,  and she’s eagerly looking forward to the arrival of her first grandchild.  Engaged to John, they are avid bike riders and usually end up on the Eastern Shore where it’s easier to ride on the flatter terrain. If she isn’t riding, she is outside either kayaking or putting her Master Gardener skills to good use.

Medical Care Advocacy Group

2337 Spindrift Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23451