Oncology Nurse Exemplifies Patient Empowerment while Maintaining Expert Role Using Open Communication

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Oncology Nurse, Colleen Poirier, RN, OCN shared a story with me recently that I believes highlights a brilliant albeit simple intervention for empowering patients who are researching their diagnosis/treatments online or taking in information from television news or ads.

Clinicians know that some of this information may be useful, but some may inspire false hope, misinformation, or simply not be appropriate for a particular patient. It can be tricky to not be defensive or dismissive when patients bring new or alternative ideas to us and I thought Colleen’s approach was great.

She explained that when a patient references ideas etc. that they’ve found from other resources, she responds with an encouraging, “… bring the information in so that the physician and their healthcare team can see if/how it might be helpful for YOU.“ She doesn’t judge the patient or the resource and I imagine this to be quite validating as opposed to a nurse who might say, “You can’t trust everything you hear on TV” or “Your doctor is a board certified oncologist and will recommend the best treatment for you”.

In this way Colleen invites the patient to participate in their care while maintaining the role of oncology expert status for herself and the physician.   While collaborative and patient-centered, this approach remains grounded in the medical and nursing science that informs clinical practice.  Colleen is listening respectfully, willing to admit that the patient may have information valuable to their care that she/they don’t, and sets the stage for further teaching and learning.

I suspect Colleen’s patients:

Feel heard and cared for

Require a little more time

Trust her and her team

May have outcomes that are impacted positively in measureable and immeasurable ways

Worth the time? I say “YES”.

Reminds me of Tony Salerno’s approach in this popular post, “I’m Dr. Salerno, but Please Call Me Tony!

Colleen  was one of the nurses who helped create the “Interruption Awareness“” Video!

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One Response to Oncology Nurse Exemplifies Patient Empowerment while Maintaining Expert Role Using Open Communication

  1. whisperingsage1 says:

    Duh. Patients’ rights and validation.

What are your thoughts?