Speaking…not so easy

A couple of very important issues were brought up during day two, the biggest one being communication. During the three rounds of domino, I was able to experience what it is to be a bystander and simply observe the ineffective monologue of a physician while a nurse fumbled in confusion, be a nurse who was unable to communicate but followed clear instructions, and be a physician who could give instructions but also listened to the feedback of a nurse and the mediation of a case manger. This exercise made me fully realize how limited and ineffective we can be in our daily interactions if we do not make the effort to modify the way we explain tasks to our peers. To take this a little bit further, if we as future health care providers cannot understand each other how can our patients understand us. I think that it is very easy to get carried away and speak in what seems to be our default language and think that others understand us.

My mom got diagnosed with chronic myogenic leukemia last April and was told not to worry by her oncologists. She has been going for blood tests on a schedule to monitor her leukocytes. After her second visit last year she told me that the doctor had reassured her again not to worry and that the treatment is easy; the therapy would be in some type of a pill form. I started asking questions out of curiosity about this treatment but she could not answer because the doctor did not explain anything further to her. This June, as my mom returned from one of her appointments she seemed very distressed, and it is not very often that I have seen my mom that way. She told me that her doctor was on maternity leave and another one had seen her. He told that soon she would have to start radiation therapy. This time she was the one asking me the questions about the treatment. She had no idea what it is, how is it administered, what to expect, and what had happened with the pill treatment. I had no idea how to answer her. I asked my mom if she had asked any questions but she said she was shocked and did not. Then I asked if the doctor had offered any explanation to what he had said. Again the answer was no. Out of this situation two things came out. My mom decided that she will seek other types of treatment and I experienced first hand communication break down that potentially could lead to patient harm. It is very likely that if the doctor had explained to my mom what this therapy is and why is it used over other therapies, she would have trusted the physician and gone that route.