Partnering with Patients to Manage their Health
Think how much more your team might get with honey than vinegar. Scolding home patients for drinking too much or eating the wrong foods may result in them skipping home clinics or coming in waiting for that scolding that may trigger an angry reaction that puts you and everyone else at risk.
I suggest that we try to put ourselves in our patient’s shoes. Consider how closely we follow our doctor’s advice. Does anyone reading this ever forget to take a medication we’re prescribed on schedule? Has anyone ever delayed or postponed a doctor’s appointment because want to exercise more, lose a little more weight or cut back on drinking or smoking? How many of us have passed up healthy choices to eat or drink something that looked too good to pass up? Have any of us ever postponed getting blood drawn until we think our indiscretions won’t show up on labs?
Think about having a chronic life-altering illness like kidney disease. Think about having to perform PD every day or HD multiple days a week. Think about having to see the doctor and other members of the treatment team every month. How would we want our healthcare team to treat us? Wouldn’t we want them to listen to us, to take our knowledge, experience, and wishes into consideration? Wouldn’t we want them to partner with us adult-to-adult and try to get to the bottom of what we didn’t understand or the barriers we faced in following the treatment plan—rather than assuming we just didn’t care? I believe we label far too many patients as “noncompliant” and assume they don’t care about their health when it’s possible that we may not have done the best job of figuring out with them how to help.
When Rick Russo worked at the ESRD Network of New York, he did in-service training with facilities in that Network in an effort to reduce patient grievances. One part of that training was to ask staff to imagine they were on hemodialysis. CNSW members can access the article, Improving Communication in Patient-Provider Relations, that describes this in-service training and includes an appendix on the staff as patient experience. Perhaps if more dialysis staff put themselves in the patient’s shoes it would make them have more empathy for the patients they serve.
Many social workers are learning a cognitive behavioral mindfulness approach called Symptom Targeted Intervention. STI encourages patients and social workers to collaborate to identify the most bothersome problem, to set goals, and to take steps toward reaching the goal using a toolkit of techniques. It uses a blame-free approach recognizing that some techniques will work with some and not others.
It’s time to use the honey vs. vinegar approach to working with patients. It may help us form more effective relationships and achieve better outcome goals.
Click the links below to access some helpful resources.
- Kidney School Module 9 Nutrition and Fluids for People on Dialysis
- Life Options’ Just the Facts: Fluid and Dialysis
- Patients like to hear from patients and Life Options tips & stories share tips from patients and professionals
- Russo R Improving Communication in Patient-Provider Relations, J Nephrol Soc Work, 23:2004:53-59.
- Symptom Targeted Intervention