My Mission, as Author and Puppy Mom

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Note: This is a Part 3 of a series by our good friend and writer Alene, so be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 when you get a chance!

I’m making progress! I am writing Chapter Six now, which is about halfway through the main text of the book. I set my own deadline of June 30th to finish the manuscript. I have a publisher, an editor, and two avatars reading my manuscript as I go. Avatars are the typical reader, the people you write your book for. I feel like they’re giving me great feedback and have made a lot of helpful suggestions for changes as I go.

My girls are growing up, Velcro is almost 7 months old and Gypsy is almost 6 months. They are getting a little easier to work with- Velcro is still the shredder and Gypsy is still my chair warmer. I still have a lot of interruptions for disciplinary moments, but they are becoming more independent, plus they’ve learned to use the doggie door!

Today I want to share my personal mission statement because it’s what keeps me focused whenever I’m struggling with the content. When I get lost, I remember two things:

  1. The topic I am writing about- Improving our approach to cancer survivorship for people with cancer, and
  2. My mission statement.

These align perfectly with the two things that really bug me about healthcare, which drove me to write the book.

  • The loss of focus on what really matters- what happens to our patients because of what we do to treat them for cancer. Decision-makers in healthcare get caught up in their own priorities- measuring things and the financial aspect of what they do. We need to keep coming back to what we are doing to people’s lives as we put them through the treatments, and focus on what we can do for them.
  • Excessive use of acronyms. Acronyms are used as mnemonic devices, to highlight the important things that we need to stick to. But the downside is they attempt to force everyone into abbreviated thinking and forget about what lies outside of the acronym. I didn’t intend to use the word CARE as an acronym for my mission statement, but it just worked out that way.

My mission in writing this book, and my work, is to show the healthcare world and all its stakeholders, the value of creativity, authenticity, resourcefulness, and empathy, and inspiring movement toward, and respect for, these qualities in all endeavors.

You’re probably asking, “Can you give me an example of how each of those principles are important in improving care for cancer survivors and how are you approaching this in your book?”

Good, I was hoping you’d ask!

Creativity is needed in healthcare instead of algorithms. Decision-makers who are far removed from patients’ lives think they are being more efficient by following the same plan for all, but every individual requires a different approach to restoring quality of life during and/or after cancer treatment. Survivorship care plans are more of a tool for healthcare providers than for patients! They give a lot of guidance for follow-up medical screenings, which are important, but they don’t address the skills people need to take care of themselves in between those appointments!!

Authenticity is about healthcare providers being real by allowing themselves to be human. When you see yourself as a hero, saving lives and never letting yourself be rattled by your emotions, not taking care of yourself by debriefing and restoring your own physical and emotional health when working with difficult situations, you do not only yourself but also your patients a disservice. This trauma accumulates, and the resulting burnout is a major problem among healthcare providers! We need to be true to ourselves, we need to acknowledge our own human needs so we can better serve patients!

Resourcefulness is the ability to find solutions to problems using the resources you have. Cancer Harbors® is a program I developed that addresses many issues common to cancer survivors, their families, and caregivers after treatment. It teaches them to build their own skills in self-care, advocating for themselves, improving consumer and media literacy, and educating them on things they can easily do. This way they spend less time and energy being frustrated when they know how to take independent action to pursue better functioning and quality of life. This is the most important missing element in our current approach to survivorship care.

Empathy is necessary at all levels of healthcare. You can’t fully understand what another person is experiencing unless you’ve been there yourself. You can still be an effective advocate or healthcare provider if you are sensitive to each person’s concerns and try to understand where they are coming from. Whether it’s national policy and legislation or from one cancer patient to another, it’s important to take the time to listen. Remember, you wouldn’t want anyone to make decisions for you assuming you were exactly the same as someone else. We need to always be aware of the assumptions we make and not only be open to hearing from others, but listening to what they are saying and checking our understanding with the source!

That is Cancer Harbors®, and my approach, in a nutshell. I’ll keep you posted as I move ever closer to finishing this book and getting it out there!

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Alene Nitzky, Ph.D., RN, OCN, is an oncology nurse, health coach and cancer exercise trainer. She works in the community with cancer survivors and has developed two programs, Cancer Harbors and FIERCE, to help with patients and caregivers with post-treatment restorative needs to optimize quality of life.

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