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Remembering My Favorites: How Education Strengthens Bonds between Clinician and Patient

June 21, 2018

Mother’s Day this year brought me beautiful flowers, sentimental cards, and the most wonderful gift of all – a visit from my children.  After our wonderful lunch together, my husband of little over a year asked if I have a favorite child. 

“I love them all the same,” was my quick reply. 

“That’s not what I asked,” said my childless husband, who has witnessed my joys and struggles with parenthood for long enough to be curious.  “Do you have a FAVORITE child?” 

I had to think very hard before I spoke.  My answer surprised him.  It even surprised me.  “Yes,” I said with a smile.  “I do.”

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This revelation would not have been a surprise to my three children.  They’re already convinced my youngest is my favorite.  What would come as a surprise is that my favorite child isn’t any ONE of them.

The favorite is each of them. 

My favorite child at any given moment is the one who is pulling on my heart; she or he is the one who needs me the most to ease worries or disappointment, or the one who reaches out to me for advice or support. My favorite is the one who shares exciting news, a funny story, or a warm hug.  Those intimate moments of individual connection strengthen our bond and remind me that I will always be needed.  Regardless of which child is in my arms at the moment - or simply most present in my heart - that’s the special one.  That’s my favorite.

It’s a lot like having a favorite patient.  

As an oncology nurse, I was often asked, “How can you do what you do? Isn’t it hard?” Yes, it was hard. But it was also a tremendous gift to be able to ease someone’s burden and know that I was making that tough road just a bit less bumpy.  I remember every patient at the start of their journey down that road. 

And I especially remember my favorite.

The first day of chemotherapy treatment is when I first saw this patient, who was frightened, still healing from port placement surgery, and unsure of what to expect. I gave my calm reassurance that the treatment wasn’t going to be as bad as what most people imagine when they think of chemotherapy.  I carefully described the process of accessing a port.  I discussed the drugs and their side effects in detail.  I explained how very few people have uncontrolled nausea and vomiting after chemo these days thanks to great medications.  I shared how to combat fatigue, what symptoms to look out for, and when to call the doctor.  I listened when my patient spoke and answered all the questions that followed.

Then I smiled at the transformation I witnessed.  With this newfound knowledge, fear and anxiety turned into relief and gratitude.  A little less helpless and lot more in control, my patient had learned what to expect and was ready for self-care at home.  I especially loved the goodbye that came with a thankful smile and the big hug full of gratitude. 

I will never forget her.

I will never forget him.

Every patient I cared for on day one of their chemotherapy treatment was precious to me.  Those patients were the ones I connected with; they were the ones who needed me the most during a defining moment in their lives.  They were the patients who touched my heart.  Each one was special to me.

And every single one was my favorite.

About the Author
Claire Thevenot joined the TeleHealth Services Clinical Outcomes team in January 2018. As a registered nurse with a certification in oncology, she brings more than 12 years of patient care, quality improvement, and program management experience to her accounts. With her background in patient care, Claire understands clinical workflows as well as the specific challenges hospitals face when it comes to engaging and educating patients. Claire is based in Atlanta, GA, serving TeleHealth clients in the Southeast region in their efforts to improve patient satisfaction.

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