This assignment provides a comprehensive overview of how significant learning experiences are encountered by healthcare professionals. The following literature is based on my personal reflection regarding interaction with a particular patient, as a medical professional and how it initiated my learning process. It also discusses the areas of improvement and actions that need to be taken while undergoing significant learning to avoid any uncertainty in future experiences.
Being a radiotherapy student on placement, I was supposed to have a radiotherapy pre-treatment chat session with a patient diagnosed with cancer. Like any other patient coming for a CT scan before radiotherapy, to whom I had to give a first-day chat, I had to think about who the patient could be, what would be their level of perception, and how I had to express myself. It was a challenge to stay prepared for any consequences and how adequately I should react to the possible situations.
I introduced myself and then started investigating patients' identities as required by the department protocol. Any examination or treatment regime in radiotherapy is unique to the individual, therefore, the patient needs to be identified before any treatment procedure (The Royal College of Radiologists et al, 2008). When I started explaining the process and reason for a CT scan, I realized the patient was showing signs of unawareness about their radiotherapy cancer treatment and was also emotionally unsettled for he was not educated by any healthcare professional regarding the nature of radiotherapy treatment and how it performed. In my, opinion, this was the phase where my significant learning process was initiated. It was clear that even after being diagnosed with cancer and recommended radiotherapy for the treatment, the patient was visiting the radiotherapy department for the first time. Therefore, it was important for me to build trust with the patient to make the make them feel more comfortable and reassured; for the diagnosis of cancer would be a shock to individuals who would feel frightened and anxious whereas actions of uncertainty are presumed to be normal in such case (Macmillan Cancer Support, 2017).
Nevertheless, I informed my supervisor regarding the situation, who immediately visited the scene and directly interacted with the patient. The patient on the other hand still claimed to not remember any instructions given after their diagnosis. He then recalled to the patient the meeting they had with the consultant and radiotherapy recommended for treating their disease then instructed me to continue with the explanation of the CT scan process after which we performed the scan. Initially, with the patient reacting absurdly I felt unsure of what I should do and say, but it was after my supervisor came and handled the situation that I felt a little relaxed. Regardless, after the scan took place I went to my supervisor to show my concern, upon which he reassured me that all information was computed to the patient but they sometimes are unable to retain it for different reasons.
Initially, I was quite confident in my empathetic skills as a medical student, however, I was surprised by my reaction during this incident. As I was able to acknowledge the gaps in my rapport-building skills, I presumed this incident was a challenging moment for me as a medical student. I was also uncertain about how to respond and did not feel experienced enough to deal with the situation alone. However, I was very careful with any verbal and non-verbal signs I showed because it was very important to effectively communicate with the patient as first impressions have a significant impact on the success of further communication (Skills You Need, 2014). Despite being in a staggered stage, I could still understand why some patients may easily forget about some information they receive regarding their diagnosis. Moreover, I was unable to immediately evaluate how to handle a sudden visit of an unaware and anxious patient to the radiotherapy department for an appointment, especially for a radiotherapy pre-treatment CT scan.
My level of anxiety increased more when my supervisor joined us while I was wondering if he would decide to remain silent and ask me to continue the conversation which I was struggling to intervene at that moment. I think I should have acted quickly and in the same way as my supervisor did during the situation so that it could have been effectively dealt with. Considering the situation, it was necessary that the anxiousness and uncertainty of the patient must be immediately answered, or else they may feel left out. The patient may assume that no interest is given to their perceptions, which may reduce their confidence to propose their decisions during treatment and medical care (Ramlaul and Vosper, 2013). Looking back, this experience had good and bad elements which have led to an increased understanding of my role within the radiotherapy team, which could be considered as significant learning that I experienced during this incident. I had to give more attention, evaluate the situation and provide more explanations. However, I feel that I did not accomplish the task (O’Daniel and Rosenstein, 2008).
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From this experience, I acknowledged the significance of being self-assured and how to demonstrate professional skills in medical practice if a similar situation occurs in the future. Moreover, another significant learning during my experience was not to be over-confident in my studies and not consider the importance of practice in the medical profession. The understanding I have gained from this experience implies that I must be more mindful of the implications of being proactive and the criticality of considering the best interest of the patient. Nevertheless, a detailed study on similar cases and also on how patients react in different settings would have helped in a better understanding.
Most patients feel alarmed when informed of a cancer diagnosis and this may bring huge nervousness and impact their daily life posing difficulties to healthcare. This point is further supported by Williams et al (2017) who identified that an absence of information about radiotherapy procedures can increase anxiety among patients which may further increase at the commencement of treatment. Despite these difficulties, one of the imperative tools that will provide quality healthcare and an opportunity for medical professionals to comprehensively understand dealing with patients during their diagnosis and treatment is communication. Communication, on the other hand, can be challenging to healthcare professionals and patients, but if it is effective, patient satisfaction will be enhanced resulting in superior cancer care (McCaffrey, 2011, p.121). What I could have done better was to have gone through some literature on dealing with possible situations while examining some similar cases that have taken place in the past.
It was therefore imperative to know and consider such frequently occurring incidents so they could be managed in a much better way. Insights of patients’ reactions and cases on how differently they may react in different situations would have helped me in handling this particular case better. This is a fact, that although practically experiencing such cases would add to my significant learning and pre-existing knowledge but a theoretical understanding of previous cases would have still assisted. To improve for the next time, I would gather ample insights into how and where things may lead, and what effective measures could be adopted.
The assignment has focused on the learning outcomes of the particular scenario that is being faced. It has further inculcated the lags and inefficiency that were present and the measures that need to be taken to avoid any such circumstances. It is learned that a prior review of past cases may assist in avoiding any uncertain circumstances.
Institute for Healthcare Communication (2014). Impact of Communication in Healthcare. Available from: http://healthcarecomm.org/about-us/impact-of-communication-in-healthcare. [Accessed 18 November 2017].
Macmillan Cancer Support (2017) Cancer and your feelings - Information and support. Available from: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/coping/your-emotions/dealing-with-your-emotions/cancer-and-your-feelings.html. [Accessed 15 November 2017].
McCaffrey RG. (2011). An educational program to promote positive communication and collaboration between nurses and medical staff. J Nurses Staff Dev.121-127.
National Cancer Institute (2014) Communication in Cancer Care. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/adjusting-to-cancer/communication-pdq. [Accessed 18 November 2017]
O’Daniel, M. and Rosenstein, A., H. (2008) Professional Communication and Team Collaboration. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2637. [Accessed on 18 November 2017].
Ramlaul, A. and Vosper, V. (2013) Patient-Centered Care in Medical Imaging and Radiotherapy. E-Book. revised. Elsevier Health Sciences, ISBN 0702055239, 9780702055232
SkillsYouNeed (2014) what is communication. Available from: http://www.skillsyouneed.com/general/what-is-communication.html. [Accessed1 December 2017].
The Royal College of Radiologists, Society and College of Radiographers, Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, British Institute of Radiology and National Patient Safety Agency (2008) Towards safer Radiotherapy. Available from: https://www.rcr.ac.uk/publication/towards-safer-radiotherapy. [Accessed 27 October 2017].
Williams, K., Blencowe, J., Ind, M., and Willis, D. (2017). Meeting radiation therapy patient’s informational needs through educational videos augmented by 3D visualisation software. Journal of Medical Radiation Sciences, 64(1), 35–40. [Accessed 20 November 2017].
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