Empowering Patients

Teaching your patients about their health status — how to cope, what to expect, and what to do in certain situations — empowers them. It involves them in their care and gives them responsibilities for their own outcomes. It makes them self-reliant and independent, even if they need assistance to do it. You can help patients understand their role and responsibility in their own health status. They are the directors.

Television and other advertising media instruct patients with certain symptoms to their doctor about the specific medication being advertised. Patients self-diagnose, run to the doctor, demand this medication, and all too often the M.D. obliges.

So many people believe that when they have an ailment and the doctor gives them a pill, that they get better. They don't always understand the correlation of their lifestyle and other risk factors. Physicians don't have time to explain, and when they do, does the patient really understand?

Often, no one tells the patient that if he loses some weight, exercises regularly, and uses some common sense pain relief measures, he may not need this medication at all. Advertisements in the media are paid for by the drug manufacturers. The M.D. doesn't have the time to educate her patients nor to respond to their repeated phone calls with complaints, and the patient falls prey to the quick fix.

Health education falls on the nurse. More and more, as health care costs rise, nurses are finding they need to fill this role. If health care costs are ever going to be contained, consumers need to take responsibility to understand their health status and to take responsibility to improve it using all measures possible.

Your role as the nurse is to help your patients see the whole picture: to help them understand their diagnosis, treatment, risk factors, contributing factors, and what they need to do to help improve their outcomes.

Obesity is an epidemic in this country. It increases risk factors for many co-morbidities and affects the outcomes of any given treatment modality. There is no quick fix, and many times the co-morbidities make it harder to control and lose the weight. It is a prime example, however, of how the patient is the one who must take the responsibility for his own status. He is the one who has ultimate control over what he consumes and how much effort he puts into burning those calories.

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