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Karen Mercereau

RN Patient Advocates, PLLC
Purpose Prize Fellow 2010

Mercereau, a nurse, advocates for and helps patients understand treatment options for better care, and she is educating a national network of nurses to do the same.

During her decades-long career as a clinical registered nurse, Karen Mercereau informally helped friends and family through the maze of modern health care. In 2002, she decided to turn her passion for helping others into a business – RN Patient Advocates PLLC.

As a patient advocate, Mercereau sought to improve care by working directly with patients and their families to get the biggest possible picture of the patients’ history, lifestyle and past care – a holistic view that can be lost in a health care system dominated by specialists, she explains.

After several years as an independent patient advocate helping patients better understand their treatment options, Mercereau decided she wanted to play a role, however small, in helping to fix the nation’s broken medical system. So she developed an educational program to help other nurses around the country become advocates.

“It was a choice of staying with my successful private advocacy practice or going for broke,” says Mercereau, who has personally served as a patient advocate to about 100 clients.

Mercereau’s weeklong course educates nurses to, among other things: directly advocate for patients; collect and summarize patient medical records; explain complex medical issues to patients; research treatment options; facilitate communication among all providers working with individual patients; and teach patients how to advocate for themselves. The 22 advocates Mercereau has educated work in 15 states.

Mercereau’s Tucson, Ariz.-based program is partnered with the University of Arizona College of Nursing, which is developing an advanced degree in independent RN Patient Advocacy, drawing from Mercereau’s methods.