by Beth Faiman, PhD, MSN, APN-MC, AOCN (Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland)
As a myeloma patient, your healthcare team consists of your hematologist-oncologist, your general practitioner, possibly another specialist you may see for comorbid health conditions, and of course, the nurses on all these teams.
When you are undergoing care with a myeloma specialist, you may also have a relationship with a nurse practitioner or registered nurse who heads up care for you and other myeloma patients. As you navigate your care, you may wonder how best to utilize each member of your care team.
In this article, Beth Faiman, PhD, MSN, APN-MC, AOCN (Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland) and Co-Chair of the International Myeloma Foundation’s Nurse Leadership Board provides practical advice on the nurse-patient relationship.
How does the nurse-patient relationship differ from the doctor-patient relationship?
Advanced nurse training has led to more involvement in patient care. Many centers participate in shared decision-making amongst the doctors, nurses, the patient, and their caregiver(s). Fortunately, this shift in the last two decades away from a paternalistic model of patient care, to a more collaborative relationship between nurses, doctors, and patients to allow for better outcomes. Through research, we have learned that patients and their caregivers receive better care and are happier overall when a whole team is involved.
In my opinion, a good relationship between nurses, doctors, patients, and their caregivers should be built on mutual respect, trust, and confidence. Decisions should be made in collaboration with the patient/caregiver and the nurse/doctor team. Nurses and doctors now learn from each other, and we learn from our patients and caregivers.
When should myeloma patients ask for help from their nursing team instead of asking for help from their hematologist-oncologist?
Because patients are living longer than ever with multiple myeloma, nurses across the country are more aware of the diagnosis and management of patients with multiple myeloma than in the 1990s. This is great news for patients, as there are lots of qualified nurses around the country, many with higher-level degrees including Master’s or doctoral degrees.
Whether you are a newly diagnosed myeloma patient or have been actively managing and living with the disease for a while, you should feel comfortable to connect directly with your nursing team to advocate for yourself. In most myeloma-focused care centers, you can ask your nurse any question that you would ask your oncologist. For example, you may want to ask your nurse, “Why should I take this medicine and what are its side effects?” Don’t be afraid to speak up! If you are having a new symptom or bothersome side effect of treatment, your nurse should be the number one person you call to address your concerns.
What are the special attributes of a nurse-patient relationship?
At my institution, as well as many around the country, both nurses and doctors strive for patient-centered care. From deciding on treatment decisions to answering questions about symptoms, many nurses and nurse practitioners have the knowledge to put your mind at ease and provide recommendations to alleviate your symptoms. Although most oncologists would like to answer every phone call personally, nurses are often more accessible and the unique link between the doctor and the patient. I would encourage you to think about your nurse as a valuable member of the treatment team who is capable of helping you voice concerns to the doctor and provide answers you seek.
The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) thanks Dr. Faiman for addressing questions about nursing care for you and your loved ones.
Should you have further questions on how to navigate your multiple myeloma care, you should also always feel comfortable to contact the IMF’s InfoLine, which is staffed by a caring and compassionate team of Information Specialists. The IMF InfoLine can be reached at 1-800-452-CURE (2873) in the U.S. and Canada, or 1-818-487-7455 worldwide. Phone lines are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time), or by email at InfoLine@myeloma.org.
We also welcome you to explore the IMF’s Nurse Leadership Board’s publications and webcasts, many of which are patient-friendly and provide even more ideas on how to navigate your myeloma journey.