Helping with the dialogue for informed consent

The discussion about informed consent following the tragic story of Michael Skolnik was very insightful. It is the physician’s job to obtain the consent after explaining the procedure, the alternative choices along with the pros and cons. It is a meaningful dialogue where the patient and the family members have the option to clarify their doubts and even have the option of seeking a second opinion.

It was worrisome when scenarios like mailing informed consent to the patients, letting physicians make the decision, and  not provide a consult before the signing of the informed consent for certain procedures in some contexts were brought up. This does not appear to be heading in the right direction because the meaningful dialogue or parts of the dialogue are not taking place and the patient’s level of comprehension about the risks and benefits are being overlooked. This got me thinking how I could as a nurse help with this process.

Some interesting points stated by fellow nurses have given me a direction in this regard. When providing care if I could make it a point to assess a patient’s understanding of the said procedure either by using a set of standardized questions or providing them with information about decision making tool. In addition to this, the other barriers pertaining to culture, language and other structural barriers can also be assessed in order to help the patient make a choice that addresses his/her needs and preferences. By making these suggestions hopefully I can negotiate and be able to provide better care and empower my patient  and  also be a part of a better  team.