You know that feeling when you feel like you are struggling and someone shows up and says “I’m here with you” or “I’ve got this.” Or “I’m here to help.”? When someone shows up in my life in that way just when I need it, it creates a relaxation in my body and suddenly I feel like I can breathe a little easier.
I feel connected, taken care of, and safe. I am reminded I'm not alone.
I believe that we thrive and grow and heal in connection. As Brene Brown says, as humans we are neuro biologically hard-wired for connection. And connection is important in all arenas of our lives -- connecting with ourselves, our loved ones, important people in our lives and even connecting with the helping professionals in our lives like doctors and therapists.
Recently I have thought a lot about connection and what it means to balance self directed-ness with accepting and inviting help from others. As both a health care provider and a patient accessing health care, I am also curious about the relationship between patients and their health care providers.
It is my belief that you deserve to have a partnership with your health care provider where you feel connected, supported, seen and taken care of. Where you know your needs are seen and regarded.
I work in gynecologic oncology and many patients are very scared along the way as they go through treatment for their cancer. From the original diagnosis until years out from remission/cure, understandably it’s a very common reaction for patients to experience fear with the inherent uncertainty of the unknown outcome. I've seen first hand the relief they experience when they are able to sit down with the doctors and be reminded that they are not alone, that they will be supported during their journey, and that they don’t have to deal with this themselves. Not because it makes the diagnosis go away, or because the doctor is all-powerful (we all know better), but because they know that they have someone standing beside them and guiding them in the unknown territory.
It’s important to feel like you have choice and autonomy in your experience with your own health care. And it’s also important to feel like the health care professional you are working with is knowledgeable, offering sound expertise and is worthy of your trust and supporting you wholeheartedly.
One of the ways the doctor I work with exemplifies this concept of partnership with patients is ina beautiful balance of encouraging involvement of the patient's preference combined with her own clinical expertise. The other day she sat down with a patient to talk about her recurrence of ovarian cancer and to discuss the available treatments. There happened to be a few treatment options and treatment schedules to discuss and in those options there was some room for flexibility. After presenting the patient with the options and pluses and minuses to each, the doctor asked the patient what questions she had and what she was thinking. She encouraged the patient to be involved in the decision. There was time to ask questions and no pressure to make a decision that moment and when the patient obviously (and understandably) felt overwhelmed by the information, the doctor gave her space, reminding her that there was flexibility and decisions did not have to be made right away. She reassured the patient that she was presenting the options that she was confident in --that while she valued the patient's choice and wanted her to be involved in the decision -- AND that she wasn't suggesting an option that was dangerous or clinically unsound.
Having the honor of watching this conversation unfold reminded me of how important it is to remind patients that they are not alone in their journey -- that we will offer the expertise we have and stand beside our patients as we navigate the way through together.
Sometimes all we need is someone to look us in the eye and say, "You are not alone. I've done this before. We will DO this together."