Sunday, February 13, 2011


The Advocate Listener

I am surprised how many people ask if my surgery is an “elective” procedure. I’m not sure why a woman would choose to have a hysterectomy unless the pain, discomfort or quality of life has diminished because of it. Do people ask if knee surgery is or gall bladder surgery is elective? I couldn’t even imagine asking someone if their nose job is a choice or liposuction is elective. Obviously, the person getting the surgery feels this is important, for whatever the reason.

In learning about empathy, we learn that being present and sometimes saying nothing is ok. Society hasn’t learned yet that we don’t have to compare our injuries or illnesses. It takes work to just be present for someone as they share something important. We want to show that we understand by explaining we have been their too. That’s not always necessary.

Expressing anxiety or fears over their surgery is supposed to help a patient feel they are not alone. But, everyone is different. My anxiety may not be because of the actual surgery but instead, being away from my children and home. While someone may want to downplay a patients fears with “don’t worry, you will be fine”, the listener has closed the door to what the patient needs to express to help relieve the anxiety.

Being the patient for a change has helped reinforce what I have been learning and teaching about communication. As a patient’s advocate – there is a strong need for being a strong listener. So much about patient’s safety is about communicating. Patient’s won’t always get those skills from their healthcare provider.

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