One of MyLymeDiseaseTreatment’s readers, Melanie Brown, shared a great article she wrote on the importance of quality nursing for chronically ill patients as she has spent much time researching and writing about this topic. I thought it would be useful for everyone to read. Thank you, Melanie, for your compassion and passion for helping those with chronic illnesses!
BY: MELANIE BROWN
When it comes to helping chronically ill patients manage their condition, treatment options focus on the physical aspects of the problem and avoid the more uncomfortable questions. While it’s easier to stay mindful of physical symptoms, treatment complications and nutritional intake, addressing the emotional and psychological concerns and fears of the patient can be vital to the outcome.
For that reason, the relationship between a nurse and their patient plays a major role in all treatment plans, whether you realize the significance of your presence in your patient’s life or not. You have a much better opportunity than any other healthcare team member to educate, inform and help your patient deal with the current situation. Your patient’s quality of life and acceptance of what’s happening truly lies in your hands.
Dealing with Chronic Illness
Not all chronically ill patients struggle with life-threatening issues, but for those that do, ignoring the fears and concerns attached to a possibility of death only serves to heighten the anxiety, stress and fear. Pretending issues don’t exist actually lowers your patient’s ability to cope because it robs them of the peace they could find within themselves.
When you choose to listen to your patient’s concerns and acknowledge those fears are real and justified, you can help bring peace and love to a troubled soul. Caring for a chronically ill patient isn’t just about their physical comfort. It’s about helping them resolve their unease with what’s going on. It’s about helping patients find a new outlook and accepting the outcome whatever that might be.
Rebecca H. Lehto is an assistant professor at Michigan State University’s College of Nursing. She believes that the biggest hurdle in nursing those who are chronically ill is helping them to come to terms with the real-life impact of their disease. That impact often includes the real possibility of death. This is especially true for those who have been diagnosed with cancer or lung disease because a patient’s outlook and acceptance can have a large bearing on their ability to fight the cancer and survive.
How Nursing Helps to Improve Quality of Life
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the only way to help those who are chronically ill is to find a way to cure their disease physically. That mindset comes from the way our medical treatment methods are designed. If a patient has a mesothelioma diagnosis for instance, than surgery and chemotherapy can help to prolong life. However, it isn’t going to bring them peace of mind. Without a sense of peace, quality of life suffers.
Psychological issues can only be calmed when patients are given the space to express their concerns. That’s what nursing can do for them. Nurses can encourage their patients to express their feelings without judging them. They can listen to a patient’s regrets. They can listen to their stories. They can also support their patients in their life and death choices whether they agree with them or not. Nursing isn’t about what’s right and wrong. It’s about showing your patients that someone actually cares.
When a patient feels that someone cares about their emotional needs, that love and concern can make a major difference in their life and the life of their family. Sometimes, survival is just a matter of finding a reason to keep fighting for life.