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Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Teachable Moment



Today, finding that ‘teachable moment’ is so important. Life is all about learning, gaining a better understanding of the events taking place so we can make better choices that can enrich our lives. This could not be truer than in healthcare. 

Today, there is a focus on ensuring that the patient is the central member of the healthcare team. Evidence shows the the more we engage the patient, the better the outcomes will be. 

Everything we do as healthcare professionals revolves around the patient, so it is in our best interest to educate and empower them, so they are informed, educated and know the choices they have regarding the treatment they receive. Many healthcare professionals are more cognizant of this and are taking the time to educate and empower the patient and their family, so they understand their conditions and the plan of care. 

In this week’s post, I would like to highlight two examples of 'teachable moments' I experienced during my healthcare journey. Each helped me be a more informed patient so that I could help myself heal and better participate in my care. 

The first example came when I was in the hospital getting my 5th round of chemotherapy. My nurse for the day came in and introduced herself. We talked as she updated the whiteboard in my room with her name and how I could reach her if I needed her. Then she turned to me and asked me what my goals were for the day.  I looked at her for a minute as no one had ever asked me that question before. She explained to me, she wanted to help me reach a few of my goals today, but to do that she needed to know what they were. I thought about it and told her that I wanted to get a shower. I also said that I wanted to take a walk so I could get out of my room for a little while. These were not easy goals to achieve as I was hooked up to IVs and needed help to get into the shower as I was very weak. The nurse was not put off by the task. She said, ok, let me check on my other patients and then I will be back so we can get started on helping you meet these goals.

When she returned, she got me ready to take a shower. She gathered towels and put a chair in the shower so I could sit down once I got in there. I asked her about the IVs, and she said, don’t worry, we can unhook you for a short time. She then went and got a shower sleeve that she put over my arm where the pic line was so it would not get wet. This allowed me to wash myself and not get the line wet. It felt great having hot water run over my body. I was even able to wash my hair. Once done, I put on a clean gown which felt great. She reconnected the IVs, and I  got back into my bed to clean sheets. My nurse and the aide were able to change my bed while I was in the shower. 

After I had rested for a while, the nurse came back and asked me if I was ready for my walk. She got me up, and we took a short walk up and down the hallway. It was fun seeing the other patients and staff whom I passed. Each said hello and asked me how I was doing. I felt good and I was glad that I had achieved my goals. I was grateful to my nurse for asking me what they were.

The second teachable moment occurred during a conversation my husband, and I had with the pharmacist who was a member of my oncology team. It was Week 4 of my chemo treatment. My Hematologist had just told us that my tumor was GONE. Both my husband and I were in shock, as we had not expected that news so early in my treatment. 

As my team was making rounds, the pharmacist stayed behind for a minute to ask me a question. After I answered him, he asked me if I had any questions for him. I took this opportunity to ask him how the tumor could be gone? I told him we were happy and grateful, but we did not understand how this could happen just after three treatments. He explained to us that the protocol I was on was meant to work fast - if it was going to work. As a result, the team expected the tumor to be gone after the 3rd round of which is why they scheduled the MRI after the 3rd chemotherapy treatment. He explained that in my case, the tumor was very receptive to the chemotherapy and as a result, the tumor was gone. His explanation helped me to understand and realize there was a science to the treatment I was receiving. His explanation made me very grateful that I had been referred to my hematologist who had specialized in the type of tumor I had for years, had developed a protocol to treat the tumor type and that my tumor was receptive to the therapy and was GONE. 

I asked the pharmacist about re-occurrence. He said ‘there is a high probability of re-occurrence, but that is why the doctor will watch you for two years.’ I asked him if the tumor returned would I get the same type of treatment. He said that he did not know and that my hematologists would determine the course of treatment if and when the tumor reoccurred. He said, for now, just relax.

These two examples showed me the importance of finding the teachable moment and taking advantage by educating and empowering a patient.  Each example allowed me to be involved and better participate in my care. It showed me that, by setting goals and asking questions, I could better understand my care and help myself heal.

If you are a patient or a caregiver reading this post, I hope the words empower you to ask questions, so you better understand your care. Each member of your team is there to help you to understand your diagnosis and the plan of care that in place to treat your condition. If you have questions or want to do some things that will help you to feel better, do not hold back. Know that taking care of you is the most important thing that they have to do.

If you are a healthcare professional reading this post, I hope this post helps you realize there are teachable moments in every encounter. Please take the time to engage your patients. Ask them questions, learn who they are and how they are feeling about themselves and their conditions. These conversations lead to those teachable moments that help your patients and their caregivers to be involved in their care.

If you have an example of a teachable moment that you experienced during your healthcare journey, please feel free to share in the comment section or by emailing me at allewellyn5@bellsouth.net

Thanks for reading Nurse Advocate and have a good week!