Bruce Dan, MD Cancer Blog – 4 Tips to Help Whip Doctors and Nurses into Shape

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Part II

Bruce Dan,MD

In Part I of my blog, “Bruce Dan, MD Blogs About His Cancer Treatment”, and I highlighted areas where Dr. Dan shows humor, strength and resolve.

Part II addresses issues that Dr. Dan observes firsthand that affect patient care.

Dr. Dan offers his observations and I offer some simple tips to help improve patient care.

Dr. Dan is now the “e-Patient” – an empowered and engaged patient and chemo running though his veins and any amount of shaking isn’t going to stop him from advocating for himself, other patients and teaching the medical professionals.

4 Tips to Help Whip Doctors and Nurses into Shape

1. Empathize with patients.  The science behind the medicine and the treatment that needs to be given to patients are vital, but it’s how we make patients and their families feel that is just as critical.

Dr. Dan observes:

“While the doctors may stand comfortably by the bedside thinking of the next patient, or the next task, or where they’ll go for dinner, the patient lies there anxious, fearful, or perhaps in pain.  Doctors who can empathize with those feelings and concerns may help the patient get better quicker.”

Take Away Tip for Doctors and Nurses

  • Ask with heart how a patient feels.  If their spouse or family member is with them, ask them how they’re holding up.

2. Introduce yourself.  Taking care of business doesn’t mean forgetting to introduce yourself.

Dr. Dan observes:

“My team yesterday came in as proscribed (at least with everyone physically in the room) but without introductions, without any offering of social graces or pleasantries.  How different it would have been if they had said, “We’re your medical team, and we’ll be taking care of you during your stay here.  Let me have everyone introduce themselves and tell you what they do because they’ll be integral to your care.”

They did not mean to be rude. They were just getting rounds done quickly and efficiently.  They, like thousands upon thousands of other health care professionals, were busy taking care of business – and forgetting what it must be like to be the patient. In all fairness, it’s difficult to walk in another person’s shoes…”

Take Away Tip for Doctors and Nurses

  • The patient is not a subject matter, but a human being.  When you walk into the room, introduce yourself.

3. Communication is key.  By communicating clearly it could prevent putting others at risk with a potential toxic spill in the cafeteria.

“When the nurse walks in the room bringing in the chemotherapy, she’s wearing a mask and face shield, a gown, and thick gloves.  The IV bag of chemotherapy fluid is wrapped in several pads, which she carefully lays on the floor away from anything in the room.  The bag itself has the words “danger” written prominently in boldface type both in English and Spanish.  There is a black skull and crossbones on it.  And then she inserts the fluid into your bloodstream.”

Dr. Dan observes:

“They encourage exercise to build strength (walking, there are no Nautilus machines on the floor), but I was blocked as I attempted to exit the ward today.  I had previously taken long walking tours of the hospital as they suggest, but this time I had chemotherapy hanging from my IV pole.  Of course, it makes good sense to prevent a bag of the skull and crossbones from spilling all over the cafeteria floor, but no one had mentioned that to us.  Had I not passed my nurse in the hall, I might have put others at risk.  I suggested that they place signs on the inside of the doors of all patient rooms, and on the door at the ward exit.  They said, “That’s a great idea, we hadn’t thought of that!”  I’ll whip these guys into shape yet.”

Take Away Tip for Doctors and Nurses

  • Doctors and nurses need to communicate clearly about ambulating orders and all orders.  Exercising and walking throughout the hospital before chemotherapy is different than walking the units with chemotherapy infusing into your veins.  Dr. Dan offers great advice to place a sign on the inside of the doors of all patient rooms and on the door at the ward exit.

4. Participatory Medicine – Let’s collaborate together

Participatory Medicine encourages the partnership between patients and their providers.

“Participatory Medicine is a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health, and in which providers encourage and value them as full partners.”

Dr. Dan observes:

“ As much as I have confidence in my doctors, I’m somewhat distressed that they don’t seem to share as much information as I want about my status, lab values, etc.   I realize that they are likely acting in the usual rubric they use with their lay patients, but I’m going to speak to them and relate that they’ll have a better outcome if they include the real insider on the team.”

Started off earlier in the day with some queasiness and let the nurse know I could use some as needed anti-nausea meds.  Turns out I didn’t get my standard daily early AM IV anti-nausea medication.  The doctors had stopped it because I’m off chemotherapy, but some of it is still lingering in my system.  I am very careful about knowing what drugs I am taking, making the nurses show me the individual named packets of the tablets or capsules, noting the colors and shapes.  What I had not considered is checking to see what meds they had discontinued; yet another wrinkle in staying safe in the hospital.”

Take Away Tip for Doctors and Nurses

  • Patients want to partner with their doctors, nurses and health care providers.  Embracing those patients that are interested in their health care and collaborating and partnering with them can bring better patient outcomes.

The Journal of Participatory Medicine explores the extent to which shared decision-making in health care, and deep patient engagement, affect outcomes.

Patients want to take part in their care and it’s important that doctors and nurses involve them and make them feel valued and respected.

Through the eyes of  a patient, Dr. Bruce Dan, I hope these tips will help doctors and nurses.

Also, what has been your experience in a hospital?  Are you well informed?  Do you partner with your doctors and nurses?  We would love to hear from you.

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