In 2004, Trisha Torrey discovered a golf-ball sized lump on her torso. There was no pain associated with the lump. Trisha contacted her doctor and ultimately several tests were performed. The tests revealed a devastating diagnosis, a rare form of lymphoma that is nearly always fatal. She was told to begin chemotherapy immediately.
Trisha felt something was not right. She did all her Internet research and discovered that she had no other significant symptoms associated with this type of lymphoma. It just did not add up.
Through a friend, she found a new doctor for a second opinion. Then came the shocking (but happy!) news. Trisha did not have cancer! She would have gone through chemotherapy for nothing! (Chemotherapeutic agents are toxic. It would have been devastating to go through this treatment and not actually need it!)
For Trisha, this was a life altering time for many reasons. From that moment, she became a patient advocate to help others through the healthcare maze. Today, Trisha is the About.com expert on the topic of patient empowerment. She recently posed a question to her readers, “What Should Medical Students Learn?” These are some the responses that you will find helpful:
- Do not “give/write orders.” Medicine is not a military command. The patient makes the final decisions. You are there to offer expertise on diagnosis and treatment options. Take the time to make certain that patients understand clearly what options are available to them and the pros/cons/costs of all the options.
- If you want patients who have money / insurance, you will have to accommodate some aspects of customer service in the medical care regimen. Treat patients, not disease.
- Treat every patient with dignity and respect, imagining that each patient was your own loved one: parent, grandparent, child, brother, sister, or spouse.
- For some patients, gender matters, especially with intimate procedures and exams. Some women would prefer female caregivers, some men would prefer male caregivers. Medical staff should not assume just because a patient doesn’t discuss their preferences, that everything is just fine.
- Never forget that your world, the world of the hospital, is not the real world. It’s not where most of us live. Explain things. Talk. Communicate. Don’t assume too much about what patients already know, want to know, or value personally. Ask.
Trisha’s first book, You Bet Your Life! The Ten Mistakes Every Patient Makes, was published in 2010. You can contact Trisha through her personal website: www.EveryPatientsAdvocate.com
Edward Leigh, MA, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication. The Center focuses on increasing patient satisfaction and decreasing the risk of medical errors. We offer high-impact training, consulting and one-on-one coaching. Contact us today!
http://www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com or 1-800-677-3256