Thursday, October 8, 2009

I heard you have cancer...anyway, let's talk about me

Last night, a family member let me know that she went to a hospital (in another city) for care. The person at the front desk started complaining about how tired and depressed she was: she was not sleeping, she was fighting with her ex-husband, etc. She asked my family member if she ever felt that way. With that, my relative responded, "Why yes, I actually just found out that I have breast cancer, need additional surgery and will require chemotherapy. So I do understand how you feel."

Now I consider that a great cue to snap out of it - to become more engaged and consider how you might better serve the patient, but this did not actually take place. The employee continued to complain about her life. While this made me cringe and did not take place at our hospital, it could certainly have taken place at any organization.

A few weeks back, I read the following from Catholic Health World's September 15, 2009 Issue:

Delivering bad news well requires courage, patience and empathy

"Patients and families will forever remember that moment when bad news is given"

There are two things oncologist Robert Quadro never forgets when he is about to tell a patient bad news – Kleenex and his watch.

Highly trained chaplains also help patients work through the tough questions, said Mary O’Neill, vice president of mission and ministry at Maryhaven Center of Hope, a long-term care facility in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y. At many Catholic facilities, chaplains are a central part of a patient’s team.

Experience has taught O’Neill that how bad news is delivered has both medical and spiritual repercussions.

“Patients and families will forever remember that moment when bad news is given,” said O’Neill. “They will remember where they were, what was said, how the doctor said it. That can have a real impact on how the patient copes, and how a patient copes with an illness has an impact on the illness.”

When it comes to looking back at our professional lives, I think many of us will wish we engaged more. We’ll wish that we held that person’s hand, we’ll wish we hadn’t turned and walked out the door” after delivering a bad prognosis.

In the coming weeks, I will share stories from our staff and patient advocates on where we have served our patients & families well and where we could have improved. We will continue to stay focused on what our patients value most:
  • Quality of care and safety
  • Respect: an individual and his/her time
  • Communication
  • Pride and spirituality
  • Coordinated care
  • Facility
  • Cost
I look forward to hearing from you. Please share the places that you feel provide the most exceptional care and experience to those they serve.

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