When illness strikes, people generally turn to a doctor for help. He or she prescribes the appropriate medicine and determines whether any other treatment might be necessary. The relationship between patient and doctor therefore plays a major role in recovery. Yet this is just one of several important relationships in this context. While on the road to recovery, patients come into contact with healthcare professionals from many different disciplines, each of whom applies their unique skills and techniques to help the patient get better.
Take the example of a 56-year-old female patient who is suffering from bowel cancer with liver metastases. Various medical tests confirm that surgery is the only option, and a resection is performed to remove the rectum. The patient then begins a course of chemotherapy, which is agreed upon in consultation with the attending doctor. At the same time, this case also involves many other aspects: the removal of the patient’s rectum means that she needs a colostomy, a surgically created opening in the abdomen. She therefore receives support from a specialist stoma nurse who explains how the colostomy bag must be changed several times a day and shows her how to care for the skin around the stoma. By helping the patient become accustomed to this artificial bowel opening, the nurse becomes a further important point of contact. The patient also makes regular visits to the pharmacy to get advice on taking her medication and alleviating the adverse side-effects of chemotherapy.
Before the patient leaves hospital, the doctor, specialist nurse and social worker arrange a meeting with the patient and her relatives. The woman is told how to continue her treatment at home, and the social worker lists the available home-care services and explains what is covered by her health insurance fund. Back in her flat, she is supported by the community health team, Spitex. Eventually, doctors tell the 56-year-old patient that she will require further surgery and another round of chemotherapy. At this point, she chooses to supplement her treatment with complementary medicine, but her condition deteriorates and she decides to start palliative care. Her care coordinators set up an interprofessional meeting to which her family is also invited.