New Workbook Helps Cancer Patients Explore Honesty, Empowerment at Stowe Weekend of Hope

During its “Difficult But Meaningful Conversations” workshop, presented May 5, 2012 at the 12th annual Stowe Weekend of Hope, the Center for Communication in Medicine (CCM) introduced patients, family and healthcare professionals to its Difficult Conversations Workbook.

The workbook is designed to help empower patients to take a more active role in communicating with doctors and nurses about their prognosis and planning of care.

CCM developed the Difficult Conversations Workbook and accompanying video as a tool to help patients facing advanced cancer identify their needs and goals and be better prepared to communicate with doctors about treatment choices and quality of life concerns. Patients in the video speak candidly about living with a life threatening illness and the challenges of communicating with both family members and healthcare professionals. For example, one patient in the video chapter on “Understanding Your
Prognosis” recalls her doctor saying that her cancer was treatable but not curable, and admits, “That was hard to hear.” Another patient notes that doctors have a hard job because not all patients are prepared to have conversations about what lies ahead.
Sadly, avoidance of these difficult but meaningful conversations can ultimately result in regrets both for patients and their loved ones.

In the video chapter on “Speaking With Family and Friends,” patients talk about wanting to protect family and sometimes not saying what they are really feeling. One of the patients wonders whether she is denying herself help from her family and says, “Maybe they want to help–they don’t want to be protected.”
Workshop participants had an opportunity to complete workbook writing exercises and discuss their personal experiences. CCM’s Bernard Bandman, PhD, Celia Engel Bandman, and Linette Wermager, RN of the White River Junction VA Medical Center, facilitated the workshop. Ms. Wermager is a cancer care nurse and the study coordinator for the Difficult Conversations pilot program in progress at the VA.

CCM was founded in 2006 with the mission to promote and facilitate better communication between patients, family members and healthcare professionals.