As a former nurse and current caregiver, may I emphasize to you the importance of your role as a member of the healthcare team. Never doubt your value to the team for I can assure you that your value is beyond measure.
Different Pieces of the Story
In years past, doctors made all important decisions related to patient care and treatment. The healthcare team stood in awe as he absorbed the details of his patient’s condition almost by magic immediately upon entering the room. Knowing what I know now about assessing and evaluating patient conditions, I realize a doctor’s power of observation can tell him or her a lot very quickly. Therefore, I suspect he determined his diagnosis through a combination of observation, physical assessment and listening skills. Using his senses and the information provided by those present, he gathered data to make his diagnosis without others being aware they contributed to his knowledge base.
As the primary caregiver for my spouse, I’ve developed those same skills. I notice subtle changes that no one else detects. My husband usually has a core body temperature of 97.6°F. If his oral temperature registers 99.5°F, he has a fever that requires treatment. I can often detect even a low-grade fever by touch alone. Furthermore, if he feels cool rather than hot, I know he may be in greater danger and becoming septic. One of the issues he has with MS is a problem regulating body temperature. When he has an infection, his body temperature may drop below 95oF.
I Can Provide Valuable Insights
If given the opportunity, I can tell a healthcare provider which organ(s) of his body function correctly and which ones may be malfunctioning based on changes I’ve detected. Having access to this vital information provides the healthcare team with direct insight into a host of details they would otherwise take hours to identify. When the medical team recognizes my value as a resource to them, they begin to see me as a partner and someone with whom they can collaborate. Working together saves time and money as solutions to medical questions are found quicker and problems ruled out based on information already known.
The Benefits of an Academic Medical Center
My spouse and I prefer him to be hospitalized at a local academic medical center. I have friends who complain they don’t like that setting because too many unknown team members come in and out throughout the day. They fear with so many people making decisions, something might get overlooked or assumed to be handled by other team members. I think the opposite is true. I feel that when eager new residents want to impress their Attending and learn new information, they research topics thoroughly. In addition, as part of the case review, what the resident found is further scrutinized by a senior resident and maybe a Fellow before being presented to the Attending. Therefore, multiple eyes and ears review the information and options for care before a plan is finalized and implemented.
I attend ground rounds (that is what it’s call when all the doctors walk around and talk about the patients on their case load) on Lynn’s case whenever I have an opportunity. I do not think many family members invite themselves to these sessions because I get “the stare” of “what are you doing here?” from the doctors. The Attending usually stops and asks if they can answer a question for me, and I explain that I’m the wife and want to listen. Most of the time they say okay; sometimes they try to talk me out of staying by saying I might not understand the jargon, but no one has kicked me out. At some point, someone says something that is incorrect, or the Attending asks a question that no one knows the answer but me, and I speak up. After that, the mood changes.
Being Part of the Team
At that point, I learn why I need to be there, and the entire focus of the grand round changes. I begin by providing additional clarification on assumptions they made previously that were wrong. I tell them our story — the correct one. I help them see how assumptions lead to mistakes and can cause harm. I remind them that I’ve been there all along and could have been part of the team from the beginning.
A True Partnership
Following that initial introduction, the team looks for me to join them. If an answer is unknown, the team looks to me for the answer. The group asks me for my advice, and we genuinely develop a partnership in my husband’s care. Creating a mutual collaboration with the team demonstrates respect for our codependence on each person’s role and our need for one another.
I advocate for caregivers to interact with healthcare teams this way every time. As a caregiver, we must be engaged regularly with the other members of the healthcare team — at the center of the team in partnership at the head of the table.
This article originally appeared on Multiplesclerosis.Net by Health-Union, LLC and has been reposted with permission.