A Cancer Caregiver’s Perspective - "I'm Sorry"

Posted by Cam McClellan Teems

December 7, 2016 at 3:20 PM


With all the complexity in healthcare, it’s easy to lose sight of the human side of health care. But a blogpost written by Lindsay Norris, an oncology nurse who was recently diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer, serves as a powerful reminder for all healthcare stakeholders that patients are people, first and foremost.

For years, Lindsay worked with oncology patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Only now does she understand just how important – and challenging ­– it is to communicate information during stressful times:

“I’ve been in on countless diagnoses conversations and even had to give the news myself on plenty of occasions, but being the person the doctor is talking about is surreal. You were trying to listen to the details and pay attention, but really you just wanted to keep a straight face for as long as it took to maybe ask one appropriate question and get the heck out of there fast.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that communication is absolutely vital to good outcomes. In other words, communication is not a nice-to-have, but an essential part of effective treatment plans.

That is especially true for complex diseases like cancer, which involve many different specialists. Good communication, the heart of care coordination, helps keep patients on track with every aspect of their recovery. And sometimes it’s about helping people with cancer understand and balance the many different options in front of them:

“In some cases, there may be more than one choice. Whether this be physicians, medications, sequence of treatment, etc. – I would try my best to help you understand every angle … You wanted to be involved in your own care – but the stress of too many options was sometimes too much.”

The best nurse navigators are those that balance the human side of health care with the technical aspects. Lindsay’s post is a personal look at many of the factors that are easily forgotten amidst the stress of oncology treatment. It can also be a source of inspiration for coordinators to remember that our work is fundamentally about communicating with other human beings who are facing great physical and emotional burdens.

Read Lindsay's full post here.


Topics: oncology, Navigation & Care Coordination

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