Can a conversation change an outcome?

Can a conversation change an outcome? Can it save a life?

It’s been two days- two days worth of raw emotion, in depth conversation, and self reflection. The last two days with my fellow academy members and faculty have been nothing short of eye opening. I’ve found myself overwhelmed by a number of emotions including anger, empathy, pride, and sympathy. I’ve found myself reflecting on my own nursing practice and life experiences, and it’s been a very moving thus far.

Today, we discussed the importance of informed consent and shared decision making. After seeing the Michael Scolnik film, I began thinking about a time that my own life was affected by informed consent. When I was 2, my younger sister Danielle was born. My parents told my brother and I that she suffered a “broken heart.” Shortly after her birth she was diagnosed with transposition of the great vessels, and additionally she suffered from a leak in her aortic valve. My parents were informed that without a transplant she would die. They worked in collaboration with her cardiologist, and other members of her interdisciplinary team. After some very lengthy conversations, they were offered the opportunity to place Danielle on the transplant list or to get a second opinion, and took the opportunity to seek out additional information. In January 1992, Danielle underwent open heart surgery when she was just weeks old. After her first surgery, she underwent an additional 4 surgeries to have a grand total of 5 open heart surgeries before she hit age 3. Without the informed consent process and the decision making my parents made in collaboration with Danielle’s healthcare team, she may not be here today. Not only did they fix her broken heart, but they also fixed ours as a family. I could not imagine living life without her. I could not imagine what outcomes could have happened without the conversation my mom and dad had with her doctors and team. That simple conversation did, in fact, save my sisters life.

Moving forward, I will be more mindful of the continually changing circumstances in healthcare. I will be the advocate my patients need to avoid being essentially taken advantage of in times of vulnerability. I will be the stopping point, and will advocate for best practice and adequate consent. A conversation can save a life.