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Kate Granger: Why compassionate care is so important

6 Feb, 14 | by BMJ

kate_grangerHaving terminal cancer is rubbish. There is no way of getting around that fact. I’ve just spent nearly a week in hospital feeling exceptionally unwell and at times wondering whether I was actually going to recover from this episode of febrile neutropenia. But I did and lived to see another day. Cancer has completely changed my life, but it’s not all bad, and the powerful voice I seem to have developed as a result is being heard far and wide and is something that astonishes me.

I have four key values as both a clinician and as a patient. These are proper effective communication, “little things” such as holding someone’s hand or sitting down at their level really matter, “no decision about me without me,” and “see me, not just my disease.” These values make me who I am and I believe are vital to consider when providing true compassionate care.

Sharing my illness was almost an accident, but has now become a daily part of my life. I am absolutely determined that in my remaining time my experiences as a patient will make a difference to improving care for other patients in the NHS. My #hellomynameis campaign, which encourages healthcare professionals to introduce themselves to each and every patient they meet has gone viral since I started it less than six months ago, and is really helping to bring about true cultural change in many organisations.

Therefore I was absolutely overwhelmed when I heard my work was to be recognised by NHS England in conjunction with NHS Employers, in the creation of the Kate Granger Awards for Compassionate Care. These annual awards will recognise an outstanding individual and team working within the NHS who put my values right at the heart of their work.

I hope the awards will become a true legacy of everything I stand for and value about healthcare, but also a brilliant opportunity to be positive and inspired by the wonderful contributions that so many healthcare professionals make to their patients’ lives day in day out. This is so important in the current climate where negativity about the NHS seems to prevail.

We are encouraging as many entries as possible and I will be selecting the successful applicants from a short list. The winners will be announced by me and my husband at the NHS Innovation Expo on 4 March 2014 at the Manchester Central Convention Complex. The closing date for entries is 14 February 2014. Details of how to enter can be found here.

When I first became a doctor I was very concerned about correct diagnoses and treatments. If you’d asked me what the most important quality of a doctor was I would have said competence. When I became a patient I soon realised how important compassionate attributes in the people looking after me were and how much I valued those. I am yet to meet a compassionate doctor on this journey who wasn’t also competent. The gentle arm rub by the consultant on Saturday night when I was at my most frightened and vulnerable was maybe one of the most important aspects of care I received that weekend.

I declare that I have read and understood the BMJ group policy on declaration of interests and I have no relevant interests to declare.

Kate Granger is a final year elderly medicine specialist registrar in Leeds. Kate is also a terminally ill cancer patient with a rare sarcoma. She regularly tweets and blogs about her experiences on the other side as a patient (@GrangerKate).

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  • Mitzi Blennerhassett

    Thank you so much for writing this, Kate. I have been privileged to read your book and have the greatest admiration for you are for using personal tragedy to influence healthcare.

    This article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal comes from another doctor who is sharing her experiences. It is a shocking example of healthcare that is without compassion, not patient-centred– and simply not working. The opening paragraph sets the tone:

    ‘The old commitment to giving special care to physician colleagues as mentioned in the Hippocratic Oath, is no longer operative and in fact should not be. All citizens should be treated equally, but theyshould also be treated promptly.’
    Baines CJ. Salon: Unnecessary Uncertainty is Unacceptable. Can Med Assoc J. July 3, 2012, doi: 10.1503/cmaj.120437

    http://www.cmaj.ca/content/184/11/1328.full

    The comments below are reproduced with full permission of the author:

    “What is interesting is how the editors censored this piece even though no hospital or doctor was named. When I told the Fellow he was putting the biopsy needle in an un-anaesthetized area of my neck, he told me to shut up! After probing repeatedly and unsuccessfully for tissue he removed the needle and then it was obvious he was going to insert it again. I said No Way!

    The sad thing is that in spite of many unprofessional and inept
    encounters, so much is done that really is good for patients. Both
    sides have to be remembered.

    Cornelia”- (personal communication, 6 February 2014).

    When I wrote about my experiences of cancer treatments in the Health Service Journal (1996) a doctor sent me a postcard with supportive remarks which ended, ‘My hand to you, in love’. I would like to pass on that same message to you, Kate, as well as to Cornelia. Brave ladies.

    What is remarkable to me is that, increasingly, doctors are speaking out ‘in the name of the patient’. And when doctors and patients join forces their voices are likely to be heard. They become a force for change. But it can take ‘a lot of bottle’.

  • Mitzi Blennerhassett

    Thank you so much for writing this, Kate. I have been privileged
    to read your book and have the greatest admiration for you for using
    personal tragedy to influence healthcare.

    This article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal comes
    from another doctor who is sharing her experiences. It is a shocking
    example of healthcare that is without compassion, not
    patient-centred– and simply not working. The opening paragraph sets
    the tone:

    ‘The old commitment to giving special care to physician colleagues
    as mentioned in the Hippocratic Oath, is no longer operative and in
    fact should not be. All citizens should be treated equally, but they
    should also be treated promptly.’
    Baines CJ. Salon: Unnecessary
    Uncertainty is Unacceptable. Can Med Assoc J. July 3, 2012, doi:
    10.1503/cmaj.120437

    http://www.cmaj.ca/content/184

    The comments below are reproduced with full permission of the
    author:

    “What is interesting is how the editors censored this piece even
    though no hospital or doctor was named. When I told the Fellow he was
    putting the biopsy needle in an un-anaesthetized area of my neck, he
    told me to shut up! After probing repeatedly and unsuccessfully for
    tissue he removed the needle and then it was obvious he was going to
    insert it again. I said No Way!

    The sad thing is that in spite of many unprofessional and inept
    encounters, so much is done that really is good for patients. Both
    sides have to be remembered.

    Cornelia”- (personal communication, 6 February 2014).

    When I wrote about my experiences of cancer treatments in the
    Health Service Journal (1996) a doctor sent me a postcard with
    supportive remarks which ended, ‘My hand to you, in love’. I would
    like to pass on that same message to you, Kate, as well as to
    Cornelia. Brave ladies.

    What is remarkable to me is that, increasingly, doctors are
    speaking out ‘in the name of the patient’. And when doctors and
    patients join forces their voices are likely to be heard. They become
    a force for change. But it can take ‘a lot of bottle’.

  • Joede

    You are an amazing inspiration Kate. I am teaching nurses tomorrow (in Australia) and will write your 4 key values on the board and play the video where you speak of the LCP. Thinking of you.

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