Cancer Orientation Class Reduces Patient Anxiety

Cancer Orientation Class Reduces Patient Anxiety

The focus on patient and family-centered care encourages patients to take an active role in their health care in partnership with their health care providers.   When patients express their concerns about their health care and treatment, they expect them to be addressed by the institutions and the health care professionals providing their treatment.   With payment for health care institutions dependent on patient satisfaction and glowing HCAP scores, hospitals are already gaining strides in their goal to surpass patient expectations.  One such improvement for patients can be found in the implementation of cancer orientation classes that are now available in hospitals across the country.  In order to better meet the needs of cancer patients and their families, large academic hospitals with cancer treatment centers now offer cancer orientation programs. These classes are generally facilitated by a health care professional such as a nurse, a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant with experience in treating patients in oncology.  Many high profile academic centers already have such classes in place, and others are just getting started.

The cancer treatment community is encouraged about the prospects of such a helpful resource, and patients currently in active treatment voiced their approval in an informal poll presented by Examining the Examiner to the online community cancer support group, I am Not Cancer.  Some of the most sought after information by cancer patients and their families include recommendations for complimentary services that patients can access during treatment to help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that patients and caregivers experience.   Hospital referrals for alternative therapies such as massage, meditation, Reiki or acupuncture to compliment traditional chemotherapy and radiation were a few of the services to which patients were seeking access.  Many patients travel from out of town to regional cancer centers and are leery of seeking such services out themselves without a reliable recommendation.

Patients currently in treatment also expressed a desire to attend the cancer orientation class as soon as possible in the course of their treatment. Why?  One patient explains, “Because they aren’t talking about our personal situation yet.  All of the things that might happen to us are just hypothetical at this point.  We might encounter some of these problems, and then again, we might not.  It’s a good way to find out information without being scared to death about what you hear.” Cancer patients admitted that they will more than likely have to face some of these issues as they move forward in treatment, but they still felt it would be less threatening to already have some idea about how treatment might affect them and what the next steps may be.

Topics for an orientation class that interest cancer patients and their caregivers run the gamut from having an advanced directive explained to them line by line to learning about the side effects from chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation.  They want to know what symptoms they may encounter with treatment and what to do about them when they occur especially on the weekends when treatment centers are closed and medical professionals may not be readily available.  Having what they need on hand for nausea, blisters, and radiation burns was reported to be tremendously helpful information that they may not have known had they not attended the cancer orientation class.  One patient expressed his horror at waking up one morning and finding blisters all over the inside of his mouth.  He hadn’t been warned that it could happen, and he was frantic until his doctor’s oncology nurse reassured him that this sometimes happens with chemotherapy.  “All they had to do was just tell me it might happen,” he said.  “It would have made a tremendous difference in how I reacted to it.”

Patients agreed that hearing all of the details about what may lay ahead in the orientation class makes it easier to assimilate and absorb in terms of what to expect about their own illness.  “When the doctor says you have cancer for the first time, that pretty much wraps it up for the day”, explains one cancer patient from the community online support group.  “You don’t hear anything else after that.”  A cancer orientation class with relevant information benefits patients by putting some time and distance between the first disclosure of a cancer diagnosis and the barrage of information that usually follows.  Patients report that they need this down time from the initial disclosure in order to be able to attend the class and hear with some clarity what comes next in the course of their illness.

In an effort to ensure patient satisfaction, cancer  orientation classes will likely become a fixed regimen in cancer centers across the nation.  Not only do these programs alleviate patient anxiety, but they allow more quality time between physician and patient in order to focus on the treatment plan, physician recommendations, and patient questions in the fifteen minute outpatient appointment.  Delegating information that can be competently delivered outside of the office visit by qualified health care professionals helps to ensure patient satisfaction and patient-centered care. Patients will experience less anxiety about their illness when they can focus on issues that are important to them without having to worry about the less important questions that can be answered in an orientation class.  When patients do have a question about something that they heard in a cancer orientation class, chances are the doctor will not have to start at ground zero.  More often than not, it is a question that requires clarification rather than a lengthy explanation, and that makes physicians happier too.

Originally posted 2016-09-21 20:14:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

3 Responses to Cancer Orientation Class Reduces Patient Anxiety

  1. We should be allowed to attend these classes more than one time if we want to during treatment. Anything that helps us feel more positive about what we are going through should be encouraged. We may forget some of the things that we learned during class, and I would like to go back for a review if I felt like I needed it. Also, something new about treatments may be added at some point, and I would like to be a part of that discussion if it was something that applied to me.

  2. I wish we had something like that at our hospital when my husband was being treated for esophageal cancer. There was not enough time to get all the information at the outpatient doctor appointment, and although the doctor’s nurse was helpful, she doesn’t have unlimited time to talk about issues that my husband was experiencing. It’s too late for us, but maybe not for somebody else.

  3. Radiation burns can be especially scary when we are not expecting them. This happened to me a few weeks into my treatment. I was told about the symptoms that may occur ahead of time, but sometimes we miss information. Having a resource such as an orienation class with contact information for general questions to be answered by someone the same day that we think we are in trouble would be a valuable asset to any cancer treatment center.