Middle-aged couple leaning on each other and speaking to a physicianBeing a partner can be summed up by the phrase: "Don’t do anything to me without including me". Being a partner means that you are involved in all decisions about your care. Your team tells you what to expect, answers your questions in language that you understand, and respect your wishes about your care.

Partnering in your care can:

  • Help you feel more comfortable and in control
  • Lead to better outcomes
  • Help solve problems faster

Partnerships are never perfect. It can be difficult to build one, and it takes work to maintain one. Communication is the key to being a partner in your care. Make sure to let your team know that you want to be involved. Tell your team about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing. Tell them about your concerns, and ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Listen to what your team members tell you, and make sure you understand what they say.

Read more to learn:

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What Partnering Means

Some cancer survivors have defined partnering as: “Respectful, timely and complete communication within and amongst a well-functioning health care team that includes the patient, family, caregivers and health care providers that results in shared decision-making and a care plan that meets everyone’s needs.”

Partnering can include many different aspects of the relationship between you and the health care professionals on your team. Communication and cooperation are two very important aspects.

Communication is the key to building a strong partnership with your health care team. Communication has to go both ways – from you to the health care professionals, and from them to you. Communication includes:

  • Sharing
  • Asking questions
  • Being given answers
  • Answering questions fully and honestly
  • Being listened to
  • Having new or technical things explained in language you can understand
  • Being treated with respect
  • Treating others with respect

Cooperation means that you and your team work together to reach decisions about your care. Everyone has their own goals and wishes. Talk to your health care team about what your goals and wishes are. Your team will listen to what you say and then help you make decisions to achieve your goals while respecting your wishes.

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How to Partner

Most people want a strong partnership with their health care team. If you find it difficult to start building a partnership with your team:

  • Be open about what you want. Let your health care team know that you want to be involved. When your team members see that you want to be a partner, they will start to work with you and involve you more.
  • Try something different. Each person has their own way of dealing with other people. If you find it difficult to work or communicate with one of the members of your team, try a different approach instead of repeating the same thing.
  • Keep trying. Some members of your health care team may not respond when you first reach out. Don’t give up. If you can’t get an answer from one person, try asking someone else and build a connection with that person.
  • Communication is key. Open communication is the key to being a partner in your care. Talk to your health care team about what you are experiencing. Ask questions, and keep asking questions until you get an answer you understand. Don’t be afraid to ask people to explain or repeat something as many times as you need.

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Benefits of Partnering

Having a strong partnership with the rest of your health care team gives a lot of benefits.

  • Better communication. Being a partner in your care makes for better, more open communication between you and other members of your health care team. Better communication means that it is easier for you to tell your team about how you are feeling, and it is easier for them to tell you about things that can help you.
  • Higher level of comfort. People who are partners in their care feel more comfortable because they know that they can talk to their team and that their team will listen to and respect what they say.
  • Problems are solved more quickly. Most people experience side effects or other difficulties during cancer treatment. If you have a strong partnership with your team, you can tell them about these difficulties sooner. Your team can then help you find a solution more quickly.
  • Greater sense of control. When you are a partner in your care you know that the other members of your health care team will respect your wishes. This gives a greater sense of control and helps you feel more comfortable at a difficult time in your life.

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Tips for Handling Barriers to Partnering

Although it’s good to have a strong partnership with your health care team, it can be difficult to create one. There may be barriers you need to overcome.

  • Medical appointments are often very short. Many people feel rushed during their appointments. Doctors may not have the time to listen to questions or concerns. Try talking to nurses or other health care professionals if you have questions that your doctor has not answered.;
  • Medical information can be very complex. Some health care professionals use medical language when they talk to patients. This language can be hard for people without a medical background to understand. If you cannot understand what anyone on your health care team is saying ask him or her to use simpler language.
  • There are different styles and schools of thought about how health care providers should work with patients. Some health care providers are happy to partner with patients and work with them. Others feel that patients should simply do what they are told. In the end your ability to get what you need from your health care team comes down to communication and cooperation.

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Resources

The resources listed here were added by Michelle Snow, Patient Education Librarian, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and ELLICSR Cancer Survivorship Centre.

 

For more information visit the Princess Margaret Patient & Family Library or call 416 946 4501 ext. 5383.

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Last reviewed: 3/31/2021
Last modified: 4/1/2021 6:10 AM