Three Ways Nurses Can Ensure Patient Adherence to Treatment Regimens
Debi Fischer, MSW, BSN, BA, LCSW, RN
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.
Here are some things nurses can do to prepare patients to adhere to their treatment regimens once they leave the hospital.
Oncology nurses working in hospitals can do a lot to help patients prepare to adhere to their treatment regimens. For example, they can encourage patients to communicate freely with their physicians, help them remain hopeful, and recommend that they use tools to stay organized and on top of their follow-up appointments.
Encourage Open Dialogue
Meeting new physicians during a postoperative stay requires a patient to have an open dialogue with all of their doctors. Patients frequently ask me when they will see their physician, what test results mean, or simply, when they will be allowed to go home. By achieving an open dialogue with their healthcare provider, patients can stay connected to the specifics of their care. This means giving patients contact information for their physicians. I also let the patient know when physicians are expected to make rounds. Making sure patients can communicate openly with their physicians is the first step to ensuring that they adhere to their treatment.
Being resilient in the face of a devastating diagnosis can be difficult. Not everyone has the same mindset. I am not advocating that patients have long-range goals if that is not their wish. But hope can play a real role in a patient’s journey. Narrow down the approach to hope to an hour, or a day. Diversions like soothing music, an entertaining website, book, or movie, can help patients hold on to a hopeful mood, even if they only work for a brief chunk of time. Hope gives patients a reason to adhere to their treatment. Show the patient how to use the TV in their room, or help them access the hospital library, if there is one.
It is also important to maintain a positive attitude when talking with the patient. Your behavior can have an effect on how the patient feels about how their care is being managed.
Patients are usually discharged from hospitals with several appointments pending to see specialists they may have met over the course of their most recent hospitalization or a physician they are already seeing. There might also be pending scans, such as follow-up MRIs, PET or CT scans. Physical therapy and home health care visits might also have to be arranged. A patient may be dealing with pain management issues. If possible, provide patients with a printout with all pending appointments, as well as physician names and phone numbers. Encourage patients to record dates of new appointments in their calendars or smartphones. Staying organized gives the patient the ability to adhere to their treatment regimen.
Oncology nurses can implement these ideas while their patients are still in the hospital to help their patients stay on track with their care after they leave.