Some say you can’t teach what you don’t know but I felt qualified to produce cardiac surgery patient education materials. We’ve spent a lot of time working with the doctors, nurses and families at the Heart Institute producing patient stories.
But as chance would have it, life handed me a lesson. My mother had a heart attack and needed a triple bypass. My mother became the person hooked up to all those tubes. And I became the sleepy-eyed daughter listening to the team rounding at 5 a.m. I learned a lot about what was important to teach and the best way to teach it.
We could not have been more confident with mom’s surgeon and his team but it was still scary. It’s important to acknowledge fear because it’s part of the process. Patients are scared, families are scared. Recognizing the emotional side of surgery is critical. Studies show that patients and families who feel that doctors and nurses care about them have better outcomes.
We chose a very real approach to the video. We followed two patients through the surgery process – Brence for bypass surgery and Erica for valve replacement . We started at admissions and waved goodbye to them as they were wheeled out to their cars. Brence went home on the fourth day, Erica on the fifth. That’s reassuring.
The value of our approach is that you get to see the scary stuff and be prepared. It shows what you or your family member will look like after surgery, what it’s like to have a chest tube removed – and how quickly the recovery process can be. You understand that your role as a patient or caregiver is to become part of the team, observe, speak up and ask questions. The video educates but it also encourages, which is exactly what is needed when facing heart surgery.