Commitment to community 19.12.2016
Central Gippsland Health Service has made a commitment to the community to keep improving communication between medical staff and patients.
CGHS chief executive officer Dr Frank Evans, gave this assurance to guests at last Thursday’s annual meeting of the service which featured guest speaker, Dr Ranjana Srivastava, whose special interest is improving doctor-patient communication.
An oncologist, Dr Srivastava is the author of four books including ‘Dying for a Chat – The Communication Breakdown Between Doctors and Patients’.
“It’s about doctors communicating what’s in a patient’s best interest, explaining it and doing it compassionately,” Dr Srivastava said. “These conversations are not happening as often as they should.
“Part of being a good doctor is to be a good gatekeeper and realising we all play important roles. Gatekeeping is becoming increasingly important and we need to explain to patients why we are gatekeeping.”
Dr Srivastava was critical of a medical system which she believes doesn’t adequately train young doctors to have difficult conversations with patients and their families.
“We don't teach them or train junior doctors in emergency for when they need to have difficult conversation about resuscitation,” she said. “We must introduce a doctor to the notion that better communication can be learnt.
“We must provide patients with best possible opportunity to hear and digest bad news. These conversations about prognosis and end of life care are the most important conversations you will have with a patient in their life time and you have to do it.
“A good conversation about withdrawal of care or drawing the boundaries of care makes everything easier for both the patient and medical staff.”
Dr Srivastava said health professionals had a duty to introduce people to the concept of mortality.
“People do appreciate honesty … if you tell people ‘this may not work’, people do listen.”
Dr Srivastava highlighted a program, devised by Harvard Medical School, which was used in many hospitals.
Known as the Schwartz Rounds program, it offers healthcare providers a regularly scheduled time during their fast-paced work lives to openly and honestly discuss the social and emotional issues they face in caring for patients and families.
In contrast to traditional medical rounds, the focus is on the human dimension of medicine. Caregivers have an opportunity to share their experiences, thoughts and feelings on thought-provoking topics drawn from actual patient cases. The premise is that caregivers are better able to make personal connections with patients and colleagues when they have greater insight into their own responses and feelings.
“The whole point of the round is that it is not a didactic round but a round to discuss the art of medicine,” Dr Srivastava said, urging CGHS Board and Management to consider introducing it.
“People equate death with suffering and pain. In Australia, we are lucky to have good palliative care and effective drugs. Personalised medicine means the right care.”
Caption: Dr Ranjana Srivastava with CGHS chief executive Frank Evans (left) and board chair Glenn Stagg at last week’s annual meeting.
For more information, please contact Lynne Smith on 0437 918234