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Alene is an oncology nurse, author of Navigating the C: A Nurse Charts the Course for Cancer Survivorship Care, Blue Bayou Press, 2018. She is a cancer exercise trainer & health coach, and is CEO/Founder of Cancer Harbors®.

EASIER: Make a Difference in Patients' Health Behaviors

Nurses can model and encourage patients toward healthy behaviors making it E.A.S.I.E.R in just a few simple steps.
PUBLISHED: 5:35 PM, THU OCTOBER 27, 2016
Nurses can go a long way toward motivating patients to engage in healthy behaviors without taking a lot of time. Just a few simple words and gestures can make a big difference for a patient who wants to make lifestyle improvements but needs an extra pat on the back to keep going.

Patients receive a lot of information most of which they don’t remember. Putting the information into action could mean the difference between a fair outcome and a good outcome. Think about the risk-reducing potential of exercise, for example; not only for reducing the risk of cancer recurrence, but of lowering the risk of developing and suffering from other chronic health conditions or managing those that have already occurred, like cardiovascular disease or Type II diabetes.

I’m using exercise as an example, but the same principles apply for healthy eating, reaching out for social support instead of toughing things out alone; any other healthy activity is applicable.

Please don’t roll your eyes when I give you another acronym…but nurses can model and encourage patients in adopting and maintaining healthy behaviors by using this mnemonic:

EASIER: Encourage, Acknowledge, Support, Inquire, Example, Remind/Reward

Encouraging with a few words to let them know you respect their efforts might make their day and help them on a day when they don’t feel like doing their workout, or don't feel they are making progress. 

Acknowledging their efforts and accomplishments. When they come in for their appointment, just mentioning it shows them you care. A few words are all it takes.

Supporting by asking, “Is there anything I can do to back you up in your efforts?” If they are training to walk a 5K, you could wish them good luck when you see them before the date of the walk, or write them a note with some words of inspiration that they can take with them to read the morning of their event. Congratulate them the next time you see them.

Inquiring by asking them how it’s going with their exercise program, this tells them you are paying attention and want them to succeed, and you see them as an individual, more than an infusion appointment or follow-up visit.

Be an Example. If you model the behavior yourself, this will be inspiring for the patient, and they will feel a connection with you that can make their patient experience more meaningful. You don’t need to share everything, but telling the patient that you enjoy the same activity or something similar shows you are interested and engaged.

Remind/Reward. Remind them that you are paying attention to what they do, and that it’s important, and reward them in some way for their efforts or an accomplishment, no matter how small.

You may find yourself inspired by one of your patients. A bench along a bike path is dedicated to the memory of one of my patients who was quite active outdoors. When he’d come in for his infusions, we’d talk. I’d ask him about his cycling and outdoor pursuits, and he’d ask me about my running. Though he died several years ago, every time I run by his bench, I still feel a surge of inspiration and it reminds me to keep going.

You never know when a patient might return the favor.
For more information on Alene Nitzky's programs, please visit the Cancer Harbors® website: click here.

Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions Oncology Nursing News discussion group.
More from Alene Nitzky, PhD, RN, OCN
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