Listen To Rose
I was standing outside the office of Rose, a nurse who schedules surgery for the hospital. She was speaking to a patient, and her voice was clear and firm. "Don't do it," she told the patient.
When Rose saw that I was within earshot of her conversation, she smiled and shook her head at the telephone. Again, I heard her say, "Don't do it." This time, her voice was stronger and even more convincing (or so I thought) than the first time. "If it were me," she continued, "I would not have the surgery. I don't think you have considered all the options."
A moment later, Rose ended the conversation with the following statement: "Very well, your surgery is tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock. Be here at 5:45 a.m. for pre-admission."
The next day, I saw Rose in the corridor of the hospital's Intensive Care Unit, embracing the patient's wife. Both women had tears in their eyes. Later that day, Rose told me that something had gone terribly wrong during the surgery, and the outcome looked bleak.
I like patient advocates, and Rose was one of the best. Her clinical experience, compassion and years of listening to patients enabled her to identify situations where people did not have sufficient information to make an educated decision on their course of care. Rose knew in her mind and heart that the proposed surgery was not in this patient's best interest. She could tell that the patient had accepted the doctor's recommendation for surgery without a full evaluation of all possible treatment options.
The patient/doctor relationship should be built on trust and mutual respect. However, an informed and empowered health care consumer must always ask questions about tests, medications, diagnoses and especially surgery. Being empowered means taking control of your health care and being able to gain the information necessary to make informed decisions.
Often, patients do not have enough information about all available treatment options to make an informed decision. When patients have more information, they tend to opt against surgery when a more conservative yet effective alternative is available.
But getting the information necessary to make an educated decision depends on asking the right questions. Often, we don't even know where to begin. Experience tells us that the passive patient who remains uninformed and takes little part in medical care may be less prepared to manage their specific medical condition. Questions provide an opportunity to increase your understanding of the medical process, including plans for treatment and follow up care. Before any surgery is performed, make sure to ask the right questions regarding surgery.
Before any surgery is administered, make sure to ask the following questions:
- What operation are you recommending?
- Why do I need this operation?
- Are there alternatives to surgery?
- Have they been considered?
- What are the benefits of having the operation?
- What are the risks?
- What happens (or could happen) if I don't have this operation?
- Where can I get a second opinion?
- What has been your experience in performing this operation?
- Where will the operation be performed? ## This does make a difference! (hospitals and surgery centers are safer than having surgery in the doctor's office!)
- What kind of anesthesia (general, local) will I need?
- How long will it take to recover?
- How much will the operation cost?
Like Rose, I too am a patient advocate. I want patients to receive the best medical care possible. In short, asking questions is good for you. This simple intervention on your part will decrease anxiety, increase your sense of control and contribute to better health.
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