Tag Archive for: patient education

Dr. Gabriela Hobbs: Why Is It Important for You to Empower MPN Patients?

Dr. Gabriela Hobbs: Why Is It Important for You to Empower MPN Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What are some ways that can myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) care providers can help empower their patients? MPN expert Dr. Gabriela Hobbs from Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center shares her perspective of how she educates her patients. Dr. Hobbs explains her methods of empowering all her patients in their care – whether they’re newly diagnosed, needing long-term MPN care, or going on to seek care from other clinicians.

See More from Empowering Providers to Empower Patients (EPEP)

Related Resources:

Nurse Natasha Johnson: Why Is It Important for You to Empower MPN Patients?

Dr. Ebony Hoskins: Why Is It Important for You to Empower Patients?

Dr. Ana Maria Lopez Why Is It Important for You to Empower Patients

Dr. Ana Maria Lopez Why Is It Important for You to Empower Patients


Gabriela Hobbs, MD: 

I think that empowering patients is really important in developing an excellent longitudinal relationship with an MPN patient. And the way that I like to empower my patients is through education. And that starts with the first meeting with the patient when they’re recently diagnosed, or maybe they’re seeking you out for another opinion because maybe something is going not well with their disease.

And so that first visit, I really like to spend a lot of time educating about what MPNs are, the different types, the things that we worry about, the possibility of disease progression, and then spending a lot of time talking about the different treatment options that exist. As well as spending a lot of time talking about how patients can maximize their quality of life with both pharmacologic interventions as well as lifestyle modification. And so education really is at the center of empowerment for patients.

And I think that that gives them a lot of control over their disease and prepares them for additional visits with me or with other clinicians if they’re seeking other care from other clinicians as well, especially those patients that maybe travel from far away. And so education during that visit is important, but also talking to patients about how to prepare for additional visits. So I talk to patients a lot about taking track of their symptoms, keeping track of how they’re feeling, how they feel with the medication, with perhaps a change in medication, how they feel like their symptoms are changing over time. Talking to them about the MPN symptom assessment form, and making sure that they can utilize that form to keep track of how they feel.

And then also asking questions…If they don’t ask questions during the encounter, make sure that they write down those questions in a notebook so that when they do go to see their clinician at the next appointment, they can make the most of that encounter by knowing that they’re going into that encounter, prepared with questions and able to summarize the way that they’ve been feeling over the last couple of weeks or months since their last appointment. So education is really always at the center of empowerment. 

How Nurses Can Promote Patient Education?

This year has marked a significant shift in the way the average person receives care. In an attempt to protect patients from the coronavirus, more care facilities are conducting virtual appointments through telehealth as often as possible. But what does this mean for patient empowerment and education?

While there are many benefits to telemedicine, this medium of care can make it difficult to educate cancer patients and address all of their concerns. However, nurses can play a significant role in promoting patient education whether it be through virtual platforms or face-to-face.

Patient empowerment through education is a key element of care. To make the most of any situation, nurses must understand their role in promoting patient education and develop useful strategies for educating patients across a variety of mediums.

Here’s what you should know.

The Role of Nurses in Patient Education

When President Trump declared a national emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic, it initiated a legal expansion of telehealth services for millions of Americans. This brought about an explosion in telehealth options that had previously been more common for rural patients. Now, however, everyone from cancer to behavioral health patients is making frequent use of these systems, often with great results.

The importance of telehealth for the treatment of issues like behavioral health has reshaped the role that many nurses have in patient care, but it has not damaged the effectiveness of care. In fact, the majority of healthcare providers said telehealthcare was the same if not higher quality than traditional care.

To maintain this quality, the emphasis has been placed on forging bonds of effective communication, empowered by patient education. Among the many tasks of nurses in this process are the following:

Communicating with a physician while providing in-home care.

Especially in cancer treatment, strictly telehealth options are not going to cut it. Often, nurses will continue with in-home care strategies, which then require information to be relayed back to a primary physician.

Part of the job of a nurse is to maintain clear standards with the patient and the doctor, keeping them both informed on current health status and next steps. Patient education in this role can be a powerful tool in ensuring that the patient feels secure and cared for.

Facilitating consultations.

Additionally, nurses will act as facilitators of new telehealth communications with physicians either socially distancing or quarantining. This helps to keep all parties safe while assisting patients in using new tech.

Patients will come into an office, be screened by a nurse, have their vitals checked, and then begin a telehealth conference with a physician. Nurses must be prepared to answer a series of questions about the process and what can be expected, including assuaging concerns about the quality of telehealthcare. Patient education may be the most empowering form of care a nurse can offer in virtual visits like these.

Navigating new technologies.

With shifts in care processes come the need for nurses to adapt to new technologies. This can be difficult and requires flexibility and consistent communication with colleagues and patients.

In this role, it may be helpful for nurses to educate patients roughly on the ways new tech has changed care provisions and data management. Patients don’t necessarily need to navigate these systems themselves, but by educating them on how their data is stored and handled, you can help empower their security.

All these roles and more require nurses to educate patients regarding the care they are receiving, what they can expect, and the way systems have changed in what has become the new normal of health care. Nurses are often expected to serve as a communication bridge between physician and patient. Effectively achieving this means keeping the patient informed and up-to-date.

Luckily, there are some beneficial strategies to help nurses manage this colossal task.

Strategies for Promoting Patient Education

No matter the time or the health crisis at hand, nurses are some of the most important figures in patient education. These care professionals are the focal points of communication between physicians and patients, and as such will play significant roles in ensuring all patient questions get answered.

Whether you are operating through telehealth or in-person care, nurses can better promote patient education with the following strategies:

1. Maintain an empathetic approach.

No matter what role you end up occupying as a nurse, compassion and empathy will help you maintain a high standard for patient education. Empathy is essential to healthcare, as it allows providers to step into the shoes of patients and work out from there how best to help patients.

Empathy allows nurses to ask themselves what they would want to know at any point in the care process. They can then relay that info back to the patient in the form of quality education. By maintaining an empathetic approach, nurses put the human aspect back into healthcare.

Self-compassion is necessary for nurses as well, as they face high-stress environments that can quickly lead to burnout. Take some time for yourself to relax and de-stress.

2. Empower your patients.

Information is one of the most empowering tools that nurses have to offer patients. With proper health care education, patients are positioned to make informed decisions about their care options, giving them greater decision-making and financial power.

Nurses are instrumental in providing this empowerment. You can take your patients through questions, policies, standards, and even payment scenarios to keep them as informed as possible. In doing so, you will raise the standard for care through education.

3. Integrate tech solutions.

Wherever possible, introducing patients to new technologies can be a successful method of promoting education. From applications to facility patient portals, showing your patients how to navigate helpful technologies will put the power into their hands. Patients will be able to review their own records and information and can even track some of their own metrics through apps and wearables.

Healthcare tech is a teach-a-man-to-fish situation. If nurses educate patients on how to use the tools available to them, they will be better positioned to make valuable decisions regarding their own health.

With each of these strategies, nurses will be better positioned to provide patient education regardless of the role pandemic shifts have them play. Empathy will be key, then empowerment and tech solutions can offer patients unprecedented levels of quality in the outcome of their care. Promote patient education however you can to ensure that healthcare needs are met even in the middle of a public health crisis.

Additional Resources

  1. Tips to Improve Patient Education
  2. Teaching With Empathy: Why it’s Important

How Can Myeloma Patients Advocate for the Best Care?


How Can Myeloma Patients Advocate for the Best Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Peter Forsberg shares advice for myeloma patients on why it’s important to speak up about symptoms and side effects, how to become a better partner in their care, and the role of a second opinion.

Dr. Peter Forsberg is assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and is a specialist in multiple myeloma. More about Dr. Forsberg here.

See More From The Pro-Active Myeloma Patient Toolkit

Related Resources

Myeloma Treatment Decisions: What’s Right for You Resource Guide

What Should You Know About Myeloma Treatment Options?

What Should You Know About Myeloma Treatment Options?



What is some key advice that you give patients when they’re considering their treatment options?

Dr. Forsberg:             

Well, I think one important one is to always feel comfortable communicating with your provider. I think that there no by the book questions, list of questions, that’re the right questions to ask. I think the more important thing is trying to establish a good working relationship with your treatment team. Myeloma is much more of a marathon than it is a sprint. So, getting comfortable with your team, getting comfortable with a relationship and a partnership that can be often many years in duration, are really critical steps.

So, I think laying that foundation, feeling comfortable asking questions, trying to understand why. Understand how and what are tools to monitor what the myeloma will be and what indicates success or a need for something else. Those would all be critical pieces that I would encourage patients to feel empowered to be part of.


Patients can sometimes feel like they’re bothering their healthcare team with the comments and the questions. So, why is it important for patients to speak up when it comes to their symptoms and side effects?

Dr. Forsberg:             

Well, I think feeling comfortable being vocal about what’s going on is one of the key issues to navigating myeloma successfully. Being aware of issues, even if they may seem minor or insignificant, they may be an indicator for something that is emerging in terms of a treatment related side effect that we wanna be aware of. There are treatment side effects that we are willing to work through. But it can be very broad in terms of the spectrum of how we maneuver through different side effects.

And additionally, we always want to be aware of any issues that may be going on that could be a sign for what’s happening with the myeloma. So, trying to be vocal. Not only to understand what’s going on, what our treatments are, how successful are we at any given point in time, where things stand. But also, to make sure that you are putting things on your provider’s radar are key. So, lots of folks want to be good and compliant patients and we certainly appreciate that hope. But being assertive in terms of issues that may be coming up or questions that you may have, can really make for a much more successful long-term relationship in terms of how we manage the myeloma.


Well, do you have suggestions on how a patient could feel more confident in speaking up and becoming a partner in their care?

Dr. Forsberg:             

Well, certainly using tools like, if you found your way to this material, I think is a great first step.

Becoming a little bit more versed in the myeloma, in the language of the myeloma, what these tests that we use are. What their results might be. Using a number of great patient specific organizations are great first steps. So, being proactive about learning, to some degree about the myeloma. And then feeling comfortable asking that first questions. Once you begin the process of unlocking the myeloma and demystifying what it is and what these tests mean and where we stand, then that can really build on itself and allow folks to feel more in control of their myeloma and their myeloma journey.


And if a patient isn’t feeling confident with their treatment plan or their care, do you recommend that they seek a second opinion or consult a specialist?

Dr. Forsberg:             

Well, I never think it’s a bad idea to think about a second opinion or seeing a myeloma specialist. Even if you feel very comfortable with your treatment plan. Myeloma’s a unique disease and our approaches for it may be somewhat different, person to person.

And your needs as a myeloma patient my change and they may change somewhat abruptly. So, having seen someone who specializes in myeloma as part of your care team, and usually it is a care team. And there’s different models we sometimes work with in terms of both local or primary oncologists, as well as more specialized academic oncologists. We’re used to working through all sorts of models to provide the best possible care for patients. So, I never think it’s a bad idea to ask about that. Because having that more robust team is usually mostly benefit without adding a lot of headache. 

Advocating for Key AML Testing: Advice From an Expert

Advocating for Key AML Testing: Advice From an Expert from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Hetty Carraway, an AML specialist at Cleveland Clinic, shares advice on advocating for yourself when diagnosed with AML, underscoring the importance of asking questions, and including your caregiver as part of the conversation.

Dr. Hetty Carraway is Director of the Leukemia Program at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Carraway cares for patients with acute leukemia and bone marrow failure states. Learn more about Dr. Carraway, here.

See More From INSIST! AML

Related Resources:

 Treatment Approaches in AML: Key Testing for Personalized Care

 New AML Therapies vs. Traditional Chemotherapy: What’s the Difference?

 Understanding Risk in AML: How Molecular Testing Affects Treatment Options



What advice do you have for patients when it comes to asking for appropriate testing and speaking up in their own care?

Dr. Carraway:            

This is so important. I think patients are leery to stir the pot or be difficult. I think coming from a place of inquiry, teach me about this, that, or the other thing, help me understand this, that, or the other thing – I would like you to show me why this decision or talk with me about why this decision versus another decision might be better for me compared to somebody else.

I can’t underscore the importance of advocating for yourself and asking questions about why am I getting this drug? What are the side effects to this drug? What is my prognosis? What is different about my case versus somebody else’s situation? How do I best prepare myself in getting ready for the therapy that I’m about to go through?

Those are all important questions that patients should ask. They should certainly have people, if possible in their family be advocates for them. I welcome that, and I think that that’s a really important part of going through this type of therapy for any patient. Your physician should welcome having your involvement in that. Don’t be shy about that. It’s your health, and any investment in that the most important people in that is inclusive of you and your caregivers. They should be a welcome part of the team.

Myeloma Targeted Therapy: Why Identifying Chromosomal Abnormalities is Key

Myeloma Targeted Therapy: Why Identifying Chromosomal Abnormalities is Key from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Charise Gleason, a nurse practitioner, provides insight as to why identifying chromosomal abnormalities is essential when it comes to targeted therapy as a treatment choice for myeloma.

Charise Gleason is a nurse practitioner specializing in myeloma and serves as the Advanced Practice Provider Chief at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Learn more about Charise, here.

See More From INSIST! Myeloma

Related Programs:


Essential Tests & Imaging After a Myeloma Diagnosis

Lab Tests in Myeloma: Key Results to Monitor

Key Considerations When Choosing Myeloma Treatment: What’s Available?



So, testing for chromosome abnormalities or changes are important when it comes to targeted therapy.

And we used to think of this more in that relapse setting. But we also look at it upfront now, because it tells us more about the path of myeloma. And there are reasons to check throughout at relapse, again, to see if something’s changed. So, with targeted therapy, we can use the translocation (11;14), for instance.

Many patients have a translocation t(11;14). It’s not a high-risk feature. But we know on clinical trial we have a drug that we’re using called venetoclax that those patients can be very sensitive to.

And so, we’re looking at this not just in translocations but in sequencing for other abnormalities or gene mutations that can help guide us with these newer therapies. And you see that across all cancer types at this point. So, you can get very specific with a patient’s type of myeloma – that this drug is going to work better because you have this mutation.

So, we look at it upfront. It guides us for risk stratification: standard risk versus high risk. And then we look at it in that relapse setting. Do we have a drug or a clinical trial that this patient will respond better to because of those abnormalities?

When we’re risk stratifying, we know standard risk, medium risk, and high risk. Those are those translocations, those gene mutations, that we know about.

But newer testing, like sequencing, gives us a lot more mutations that we don’t even know what to do with them all yet.

We don’t necessarily have drugs for all of them, but it does help guide us down the road. So, right now some common are the translocations, but also deletion 17p, which we’ve known about for a while. But maybe you see a BRAF mutation, which you typically associate with other types of cancers, but we see that in myeloma as well.

So, it helps us look at is there a drug that our myeloma patient might benefit from because they have a BRAF mutation, for instance. 

Essential Imaging and Chromosome Tests after a Myeloma Diagnosis

Essential Imaging & Chromosome Tests After a Myeloma Diagnosis from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Charise Gleason, a nurse practitioner, explains why tests such as bone marrow biopsy, FISH test and full-body imaging are considered essential for patients after a myeloma diagnosis.

Charise Gleason is a nurse practitioner specializing in myeloma and serves as the Advanced Practice Provider Chief at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Learn more about Charise, here.

See More From INSIST! Myeloma

Related Programs:

Myeloma Targeted Therapy: Why Identifying Chromosomal Abnormalities is Key

Lab Tests in Myeloma: Key Results to Monitor

Key Considerations When Choosing Myeloma Treatment: What’s Available?



The essential testing that a myeloma patient should undergo following a diagnosis is – obviously, you’ve had those diagnostic test labs, the 24-hour urine, some scans, but the specific things that we need are a bone marrow biopsy.

That includes cytogenetics and FISH, and we can talk a little bit more about that. You also want full-body imaging. We used to always use a skeletal survey, which was an X-ray of the long bones. But, really, the standard of care now is a whole-body scan.

So, depending on what your oncologist or your institution has, that would be a full-body CT scan, a PET-CT scan, or a full-body MRI. So, one of those tests is recommended. It’s not unusual if you have a PET. Like our institution, we use PET-CT. So, for a newly diagnosed patient, we’re also going to get an MRI of the spine for a further snapshot.

What we’re looking for with a full-body imaging is we want to make sure that there aren’t any lytic lesions.

So, with an X-ray, you have to have about 30 percent bone loss before it’s going to show up on an X-ray. So, those traditional X-rays that we used to use could actually miss an active lesion. So, in that diagnosis, we want to know that there is no active myeloma. And those other scans are going to be more specific to that.

So, the cytogenetics of a bone marrow biopsy are going to tell us more about the biology of the disease. So, cytogenetics actually grows out the pairs of cells. And so, that’s why that portion of the test can take a while to get back.

At our institution, it can take two to three weeks, because you’re actually growing out those cells to look at the chromosomes. And remember these are chromosomes, or genes, of the plasma cells. And so, we’re looking for those abnormalities that might be present. So, you think about it more for the biology of the disease.

When we’re looking at FISH, we’re also looking… That test shows a little bit different. It comes back quicker. It shows two different phases of cell changes.

And so, it will tell us about chromosomes as well. But do you have any additional chromosomes – so, that would make it a hyperdiploid narrow. It tells us if there’s a loss of a chromosome – so, you’re missing one, a hypodiploid. It also tells us about translocations – so, when you’ve had a piece of a chromosome change and go to another cell. And so, that, for instance, would be like that translocation t(11;14) or translocation t(4;14). So, it’s essential to have that testing to tell us about that, because it helps guide treatment. And as we talk more about targeted therapy, these things really can come into play.

digital sherpa™ Program Featured on Change Together

Editor’s Note: Our digital sherpa™ was featured on Astellas’s Change Together blog and was originally published here.

Advocacy groups join forces to provide digital health education for cancer patients

As the saying goes, there’s no point reinventing the wheel – which is why two patient advocacy groups driving for patient empowerment have teamed up on a program of digital health education for cancer patients and their caregivers.

The Patient Empowerment Network’s (PEN) digital sherpa™ program, in which tech-savvy young people teach older cancer patients to access online health information and resources, has been piloted by three Cancer Support Community (CSC) affiliate groups.

digital sherpa™ workshops, which first featured on Change Together earlier this year, proved extremely popular when trialed with CSC groups in San Francisco, Dallas and Los Angeles.

Katie Dimond, Program Manager at CSC said she knew it was a perfect partnership as soon as she discussed the opportunity with PEN’s Executive Director, Andrea Conners.

Perfect partnership

“We have an existing population of less tech-savvy people who would really benefit, and I knew immediately it would work and that there would be an interest for this,” she said.

“We knew some of our affiliate groups would love to do something like this, but might not have the resources. To be able to give them everything they need to provide for their existing populations and even get new people in is a win/win for everyone.”

And they were right. In fact, the pilots went so well that the two groups are now discussing the possibility of rolling this out to more CSC affiliate groups next year.

“We really want to empower patients and part of that is our online resources – making sure people are aware of the type of cancer they have; the side effects of treatment and they can be part of the decision-making process. Working with PEN is such a great partnership,” she said.

Shannon La Cava, PsyD, Program Director at Cancer Support Community’s Los Angeles affiliate group agreed the program was a perfect fit.

“I was very interested because it sounded like it would be a great benefit to our members. The average age of our members is 55 and people often come in to ask how to get onto online services,” she said.

While PEN recruited the volunteer sherpas, the CSC groups organized and marketed the events.

Shannon’s colleague, Allison Brown, LCSW, was at the Los Angeles workshop which saw almost 40 people receive a lesson in patient portals, digital health information and even social media from UCLA and USC student volunteers.

“The students did a great job and worked with what the members were asking for. It was really nice to watch the students and our members work together,” she said.

Shannon added that this opportunity for the volunteers and their typically older tech trainees to connect was an unintentional benefit of the workshops.

Joy of collaboration

Andrea said she was delighted to be able to work so closely with the organization and said the collaboration was a “mutually beneficial relationship”.

“The mission of CSC is very much aligned with our mission, and we really admire and respect what they do and how they do it.”

“CSC is providing quality programming that will help patients become more health literate and it wants to help them access those resources – and we just so happen to have a program that does exactly that,” she said.

Attendees at a digital sherpa™ workshop:

Digital SherpaDigital Sherpa

Finding The Right Oncologist For You

finding-the-right-oncologist-for-youWhen you put your life in someone else’s hands, you need to feel completely comfortable and confident with that person – especially when that person is your oncologist. How do you go about finding the right one for you?

One of the best ways to find an oncologist is through referrals from people you trust, such as your primary care physician, family, friends, local hospitals or your insurance company. Many insurance plans allow their members to search doctors by name or specialty. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) provides a free, searchable database of ASCO member oncologists. These doctors opt to make their information available to the public.

Other medical associations offering searchable databases:

Once you have collected and written down a few possible oncologists’ names, remember to ask yourself these three questions:

What are their credentials?

Board certification is one of the most important factors you should consider when choosing an oncologist. It assures you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills, and experience to provide healthcare in oncology. Additionally, choose a doctor that treats your specific type of cancer and has related experience with that disease. The more experience the doctor has with a certain cancer, the better your outcome will likely be. Your doctor’s hospital is your hospital, so don’t forget to research the quality of care offered at that location as well.

What blend of traits are important to you?

Languages spoken, gender, and education may be important to you. You may also have strong feelings about personality and bedside manner. Some people want their doctors to have a business-like manner, while others value a doctor who can help with their emotional health as well as their medical needs. Whatever your preferences, the most important thing is finding an oncologist with whom you are comfortable.

What is their communication style?

Choose a doctor that values and respects your questions and answers you in a way that you can understand. Clarity and candor are highly important characteristics for a doctor. Make sure that your doctor values both shared decision-making and the best available clinical evidence, as well as your personal values and preferences throughout your treatment.

Once you have found a doctor that meets all the above criteria, ask him or her for an introductory phone call before scheduling an appointment. You should interview your potential oncologist the same way you would interview a lawyer or an accountant. Don’t be afraid to set-up introductory calls or appointments with a few oncologists for comparison. You may also want to consider the size of your doctor’s staff and accessibility to clinical trials.

Alongside considering size of practice, clinical trials or proximity to home, make certain that your new oncologist is someone you can work closely with and trust. Your new doctor will become the most valuable member of your cancer team, so it is imperative that you choose a doctor with whom you are comfortable.





Being Your Own Advocate

Tamara Lobban-Jones, Patient Power Producer and Lung Cancer Community Manager, and Lisa Goldman, a stage 4 non-small cell adenocarcinoma patient discuss why cancer patients need to be their own advocate.

They discuss the need for doctors and patients to communicate in new ways that respect the balance between a doctor’s expertise and patients’ own thoughts and knowledge. With the ever increasing developments in cancer research, it has become harder for oncologists to understand everything about each specialized form of a certain cancer. As Lisa points out, all that patients need to know about is their own cancer, so they can dedicate more time and energy into researching than a doctor may be able to. Being an active participant in your cancer journey is the best way to feel confident in your decision making.

Being Your Own Advocate from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Cindy Chmielewski Talks About Clinical Trials

Cindy Chmielewski, a leader in multiple myeloma patient activism and empowerment, talks with Carol Preston about what she has learned about clinical trials from being a multiple myeloma patient. Cindy believes that patients should seriously consider trials as an excellent treatment option and should discuss the availability of trials with their medical team. Carol and Cindy discuss tips on how to become a more informed patient through multiple platform research, such as online resources, social media or attending seminars.

Watch the full video below to learn more from a forefront member in patient education advocacy.

Cindy Chmielewski talks about clinical trials from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.