Why patient-centered care matters with a breast cancer diagnosis: How providers can play a role
Your patient’s head is spinning with a new breast cancer diagnosis. She has many doctors to see, procedures to schedule and undergo, and treatment decisions to make. She worries about how she’ll manage her responsibilities to family, work, and her community.
As a provider, you play a big role in getting her the best care possible and helping her feel included, informed and engaged in her care. Your support will help her manage many of the challenges that she’ll face in the coming weeks, months, and years.
Prepare for conversations with your patients to get them engaged and think in advance about how you want to promote their engagement.
Encourage participation of family and friends who can be a source of support, comfort and help out when the patient needs them to do so.
Answer family questions just as thoughtfully as you do the patient’s questions.
Take the time to look at the patient and understand how emotionally charged this may feel.
Help your patients with strategies that can make it easier to navigate the feelings, questions and comments that they will surely experience.
Engage your patients by showing them that you care about more than their physical health.
This will help your patient feel like you care not only about their health care, and her family’s well-being outside of the hospital environment. (Keep in mind that it is daunting to get a cancer diagnosis, especially when hearing it for the first time.)
You can prepare by asking more about what they are thinking and respond to those concerns, in addition to focusing on the diagnosis. For many patients, feeling connected to their provider can help them be more compliant with their care plans.
Frequently people will ask your patients, “How can I help?” This broad question, it by itself is not helpful. Help your patients think of what sort of help they might need and who could be the person to help with that need. Refer the to patient support tools like caringbridge.org and mealtrain.com. That way, you can help them develop responses that are well-prepared: food preparation, carpool help, cleaning the house or yard, taking care of pets, babysitting when she needs time for self-care or with a loved one.
Your patients are coping with something very hard – a breast cancer diagnosis. Dealing with comments and questions, whether kind, awkward, upsetting or embarrassing, are difficult for your patient.
When you engage a patient by helping them prepare their responses, it will be easier to cope with the inevitable questions, comments and concerns.