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Empowering patients to manage their own health

Watch this video case study to view how the GP talks to his patient about managing her own her own health post cancer treatment

As you will have seen in the video above, after Martina’s last consultation with Jackie (the practice nurse) she was asked to check back with her GP (Justin) about ways to manage her own health. In this activity, we’ll be exploring self-management in more detail.

Self-management is the process through which survivors take control of their lives after undergoing the mental and physical stress of a cancer diagnosis. Although self-management can be defined in various ways, all definitions share a common need for extending care beyond just medical advice. Self-management allows patients to take back their self-efficacy, independence and empowerment.

Self-management as defined in the article by Barlow et al (2005) describes this process as:

  • Improving the health and wellbeing of the patient
  • Reducing the patients need to have constant visits to health professionals
  • Empowering the patient to take responsibility for their own health

As a PCP you will first need to understand the demands of cancer survivorship for the individual patient. Communicating this to the patient and their supportive care teams is paramount in introducing self-management skills. Survivors need to acknowledge:

  • The need for regular participation in routine visits but less frequent oncology visits
  • The ability to be able to understand the signs and symptoms of disease recurrence
  • The importance of managing and adjusting to the late-term effects of cancer and cancer-treatment
  • Adapting back into normal routines and becoming more involved in social roles is important going forward, and
  • Being able to deal with residual psychological distress in order to minimise negative impacts on their quality of life.

This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, which is important to remember. And as a PCP, it is vital to support patients by educating them about the concept of self-management, and the importance of self-management throughout the survivorship phase.

By helping to empower patients throughout the survivorship phase, they will feel more in control of their own ongoing health and wellbeing. They can acquire the skills and be made aware of the resources to help them problem-solve, make better informed decisions, and enable them to take action and form stronger partnerships with their healthcare providers.

To discover more about self-management, read the article Self-Management: Enabling and empowering patients living with cancer as a chronic illness and consider how you would apply aspect of this model to your care of cancer survivors.

Do you agree that when put together, these elements result in a productive partnership between informed and engaged patients aligning with well-prepared and proactive practice teams? Share your thoughts with others by posting your response in the comments section below.

References: McCorkle, R., Ercolano, E., Lazenby, M. Schulman-Green, D., Schilling, L.S. Lorig, K., & Wagner, E. H. (2011). Self-Management: Enabling and empowering patients living with cancer as a chronic illness. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicans, 61(1), pp50-62

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Cancer Survivorship for Primary Care Practitioners

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