CancerCare Manitoba
News Item

January 22, 2013

Keep it Clear

Effective Communication Key to Improving the Patient Experience

For patients experiencing illness-related distress, better care starts with better communication according to CancerCare Manitoba's world renowned leader in palliative care, Dr. Harvey Chochinov.

"Health Care Provider Communication - An Empirical Model of Therapeutic Effectiveness" along with an accompanying editorial was published today in Cancer, the official journal of the American Cancer Society and a highly regarded source for health care professionals.

"So much of healthcare is tainted by interactions where people feel misunderstood or simply not heard," said Dr. Harvey Chochinov, Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care and Director, Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit at CancerCare Manitoba. "The need to be understood, the need for compassion and kindness are never more important than in the context of declining health. Our research shows elements of being an effective communicator that can be identified, named and taught."

Estimates suggest that 20% - 50% of patients living with cancer experience substantial emotional distress, which can include feelings of hopelessness, concern about being a burden, and loss of dignity. To alleviate these feelings of distress, Dr. Chochinov and his colleagues developed a model for healthcare providers that combine six elements - therapeutic healing, the creation of a safe space, personal growth, pacing, presence and humility - to improve a cancer patient's quality of life.

"Dr. Chochinov and colleagues have built on their previous significant work by identifying critical concepts in therapeutic communication. The themes and model reported in this article are a valuable contribution for clinicians as well as researchers in psychosocial care," said Dr. Betty Ferrell, RN, a leading authority in palliative care and professor and research scientist at City of Hope National Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. "This model greatly advances existing knowledge and is an impressive contribution to the field of psychosocial oncology."

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