Community Care Coordinator for Kitchener Centre Team
Many years ago, a friend of mine reminded me that in our role as health care providers, we are “intimate strangers”. We see people at the most vulnerable, most raw points in their lives. We have to ask personal, sometimes intrusive questions. They trust us to help see them through their health care journey.
I always try to remember that when I work with a patient, I am in a unique position. They are sharing their health issues and their vulnerabilities so that I can give them guidance either to help improve their quality of life or even to help them towards the end of life.
To me, it is very humbling to have that lens into their lives and to have people look to me for my expertise and guidance.
I’ve always taken a patient-centered approach to my work. That includes being open and not making assumptions. Even when a new patient has similar circumstances to someone I’ve worked with before, I don’t assume that I can take the same approach. It’s so important to start where the patient is at the moment and not where we think they should be.
We are lucky enough that people welcome us into their homes. We see them where their lives happen. See them with their pets, their pictures, friends and neigbours who may come to visit. The work we do is not just about the information they tell us. Sometimes we can see what they aren’t telling us. It’s a huge opportunity to use that information to help facilitate change.
It’s not about projecting our goals on to them or what we think they need, or what their family thinks they need, but what the patient wants. Sometimes that means stepping back and respecting when someone doesn’t want help. If they’re capable, they have the right to decide on the care they’ll receive. It’s up to us to provide them with the best information so that they are able to make informed decisions. To facilitate the care – educate them about what’s available in the community.
For some patients and their caregivers, they just want to be heard. Sometimes, the greatest value I can offer is not so much what I do as far as the nuts and bolts of putting in the services – sometimes it’s providing an ear to a patient or a caregiver so they can blow off steam. That means listening – really actively listening, paying attention to what’s going on, and being present with the person who you’re having a discussion with – whether over the phone or in person. That one conversation can make a difference and help keep someone from going into a crisis situation because they can’t manage.