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Debi Fischer is a nurse at the University of Miami surgical oncology step down unit. Prior to that she worked in orthopedics and neurology for many years. In addition to her nursing experience, she has earned a master’s degree in social work. Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker was a lon-sought-after goal which she finally attained. She is a caregiver for her family and her dogs as well.

Three Things Nurses Can Do to Improve the Patient Experience

Listening to a patient carefully, anticipating their needs, and being flexible in your responses to their care schedule are 3 ways oncology nurses can help improve the patient's experience during a hospital stay. 
There are 3 things that nurses can do to improve the patient experience: listen, anticipate the patient’s needs, and be flexible.


As a nurse on a surgical oncology step-down floor where patients are battling severe post-operative pain, I find listening to what patients say is vital to providing optimal care. Oncology nurses must listen to patients when they say that their pain is not under control. Calling the surgical or other specialty resident is always an option for more pain medication.

Listening to patient feedback about their comfort level is also important. For example, if the TV in the room doesn’t have sound, the bed is not comfortable, or it is too cold in the room, the patient experience suffers.

Anticipate Needs

Anticipate your patient’s physical needs. Don’t wait for a patient to buzz for things you know they should have and will need. For example, patients with abdominal surgery usually start off drinking clear liquids. Make sure ice and water are readily available. Also, have apple juice, tea, and chicken broth on hand. If the floor is out of Jell-O, getting in the elevator and going to another floor to find it is always an option. Having extra blankets and pillows on hand is crucial as well.

If you know that it may take an hour for extra pain medication to be approved, suggest that the patient alert you to their rising level of pain before it reaches an unbearable level. Some patients want to tough it out until they can’t stand the pain, but if they wait until that point to let you know about it, they may suffer unnecessarily longer until you can provide them with relief.

Be Flexible

Being flexible may be the key to getting through a shift. The world doesn’t revolve around the nurse’s schedule. A patient’s severe pain may necessitate a change in priorities. Sleep is not on a set schedule. Sometimes, patients sleep for hours at the beginning of a shift and wake up at midnight. If that is the case, medications may have to be given later if the patient is too drowsy. Going the extra mile to be flexible is important to this patient who needs reparative sleep.

Another way to be flexible may involve keeping family members comfortable. Many times, they are your key to keeping the patient calm during the shift, especially if this is a patient who is not used to being in the hospital. Remember that this may be a challenging experience for the family member also. I always ask the family member if they need something to eat or drink. I also offer extra blankets and pillows. Providing the doctor’s phone number in case they don’t already have it is another way to keep them in the loop regarding their family member’s care.  

These may seem like simple measures, but they go a long way toward improving the patient experience.


Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions Oncology Nursing News discussion group.
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