Portrait of an old woman with her adult daughter.

The Momma Test

Over the years, one of my favorite things to do has been to work with / speak to / address college students. They are young, aren’t yet set in their ways, still hope to save the world, are naive to the “follow the money” aspects of healthcare and, honestly, it’s just plain fun.

Last week I had the privilege of participating in an ethics debate for a well-known and respected university in a course called Controversies in Healthcare (medical, legal, and bio ethics), to a combination group of law students and medical students, on the topic of independent advocacy – vs – hospital advocacy. My co-debater was the Director of Ombudsmen at a very well-known and respected hospital system.

The idea, since it was a “controversies” class, was that we were supposed to argue that our own solutions were the better solutions, and that the opposing solution was not a good choice.

But we totally missed that mark!

The Director of Ombudsmen, who I will call Susan (because I didn’t ask for permission to write about her) and I tried as we could to find places to argue our own points – but mostly we just agreed.

It turned out to be a marvelous conversation about how advocates, interior and exterior to the hospital, could be complementary. To me, it was a great lesson in how good hospitals (note – not ALL hospitals, but GOOD hospitals) are shifting their management of patient problems, admitting when they are not the best choice for a patient or family member, and are becoming more aware of what independent advocates can do for their own hospital patients.

As Susan and I discussed those situations and capabilities, I was reminded of a conversation I had years ago with a C-suite administrator from a hospital who had the patient advocacy staff working in his group. He was trying to convince me that their patient advocacy staff were focused solely on the hospital’s patients, and then told me how he measures their success.

He called it the Momma Test.

He told me that whenever a patient complaint crossed his desk (meaning, it had been escalated from the advocate, through a layer or two of supervisors, but had not yet been settled), he would look at the problem situation and would apply his Momma Test: he would ask himself,

“How would I feel if this had happened to my Momma?
And if it had, what would I want done about it?”

What a great tool for advocates!

Of course, we are all highly protective of our mothers (of our parents) – and there is no stone we would leave unturned to be sure they received the best of care. Thus, the Momma Test.

There are so many ways it can be used. Here, off the top of my head: Advocates can…

  • use the Momma Test in their marketing.
  • use the Momma Test when they talk to providers or hospital workers on a client’s behalf.
  • use the Momma Test to consider their own actions with their clients.
  • use the Momma Test in a discussion with a friend or family member – just own the test as if it was your own clever test!
  • (maybe you can come up with other uses> Or give examples of your own application below?)

Unfortunately the man who shared the Momma Test with me has not done a very good job of enforcing it at his own hospital. That particular hospital has a grade of “C” from the Leapfrog Group (www.hospitalsafetygrade.org) which tells me they aren’t doing nearly what they can to improve a patient’s outcomes from a stay in their hospital.

But that does not diminish the great applications for the Momma Test. I suggest you begin to incorporate it in your daily work and promotion. Use it liberally.

Momma will be (would have been) proud of you.


1 thought on “The Momma Test”

  1. Thanks for writing about the Momma Test. It is a great tool. It’s simple and very helpful … For example, I know of a situation when a hospital employee found herself in her Hospital’s ED. During her care, she stated to the ED team that her care was not meeting the Momma Test. She told me that she experienced better care going forward. She let me know that being able to say “the Momma Test” helped her communicate simply and easily to the care team without fear.
    Thanks for sharing the Momma Test story.

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