Personal Perspective: Preparing a Patient for Surgery by Pamela Jessen, Patient Partner

“Personal Perspectives” provide a space for practitioners and patients to offer their personal views about any aspect of enhanced recovery. “Personal Perspectives” do not necessarily reflect the views of the ERAS Collaborative in general. If you would like to contribute your personal perspective, please contact the Project Manager

Preparing a Patient for Surgery

By Pamela Jessen, ERAS Collaborative Patient Partner

Surgical programs are continuously developing or refining their patient education materials. I’d like to share two personal stories that demonstrate how a patient preparing for surgery can have a positive or negative experience. Though I am not an ERAS patient, I have undergone multiple surgeries and believe that patient empowerment through education has the power to affect health outcomes for any type of surgery, minor or major.

Several years ago, I was scheduled for a Nissen Fundoplication for severe GERD. The surgeon I met with took me verbally through the surgery steps and explained that I would be on a liquid diet for several weeks. I left his office feeling somewhat educated, but wishing there was more information on what would take place, especially from a patient’s viewpoint. I also had questions on what a liquid diet would look like, and when I would be able to incorporate other foods back into my diet, but he didn’t seem to have time to provide me with details, instead defaulting to a dietician who would meet with me on my discharge date. During my pre-op appointment with the anesthesiologist, I discovered I had to undergo a sleep study prior to surgery, because of my recognized but undiagnosed sleep apnea. I was already stressed about the diet issues, and having to arrange this test felt very “last minute” to me. The surgery was successful, but in the end, there was no dietician available to meet with me. All I was given was a typed list of liquids and soft foods and no instructions on returning to a regular diet.

To contrast this, a few years later, I had a pelvic surgery scheduled to remove adhesions and scar tissue. As soon as my OB/GYN and I picked a date, I was scheduled to meet with his Surgical Coordinator. She gave me a booklet that had been prepared specifically for patients undergoing this procedure and we went through it together, to ensure I understood what would be happening before, during and after surgery. She also told me about a program called “Aftercare”, where patients could call if there were any concerns or questions during recuperation. There was even a website link in the booklet, leading to a forum with comments from other patients who had undergone the same surgery.

Two very different situations! By including me as a Partner in my health in the second scenario, I felt empowered, which no doubt led to a better recovery overall. Having a system in place ensures that important details are discussed and acknowledged and lets patients have a say in their recuperation. A lack of information makes for a nervous and stressed patient. Let’s continue to focus on Patient Centred Care, knowing that a healthy outcome involves everyone.

Pamela Jessen

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