Cardiovascular disease is a class of disease that affects not only the structure and function of the heart, but also one’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. This essay will discuss the human health experience of a guest speaker, whom has spoken account of a series of emergency events that led her to the discovery of her current condition: spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). The guest speaker, who will be addressed as “See” throughout this paper, is a thirty-six-year-old single mother of two children, aged six and nine. Firstly, this essay will describe what happened to her physically as well as her feelings, thoughts, and actions at the time of her cardiac events.
Subsequently, two abstract concepts (interprofessional teamwork and patient empowerment) and two determinants of health (social support networks and personal health practices and coping skills) will have been identified from See’s narrative and analyzed as to how they have shaped See’s overall health experience. Lastly, my own assumptions (based on my prior and current professional experience, and knowledge base) will be reflected on as to how they compare to and differ from the selected concepts derived from See’s narrative. I argue that the quality of care given by interdisciplinary teams within healthcare organisations greatly impact the human health experience of patients; incorporating patient empowerment and inflicting trust towards the patients would result in a more positive health experience. This essay will present how See’s human health experience with interprofessional communication, patient empowerment, support systems, and healthy coping skills has contributed to her understanding of the health care system, her diagnosis, and her overall outlook on life.
See recalled her experience very vividly, disclosing that it was a very “normal” day for her until she began experiencing what had seemed to be an allergic reaction (nausea, her throat feeling odd, pain radiating to her back, left arm, and up her jaw). As per her perceived allergic reaction, See self-administered herself Benadryl (an antihistamine used to combat allergies); however, her feelings of discomfort and unease had failed to subdue, causing her visit to the Foothills Medical Centre (in triage).
After long periods of waiting and apprehension, See and the health care team that was catering to her had realized that she had been having a myocardial infarction (heart attack) all along—as per her diagnostic results, they discovered it had been a vascular spasm in the heart that was not releasing, causing damage to the lower left side of See’s heart. Since this very traumatizing experience, See had been adhering to the proper steps one should take after recovering from a heart and preventing another occurrence in the future (known as secondary prevention), including: administration of nitroglycerin spray as needed and decreasing any work and stress load. Two years after her heart attack, See began experiencing cardiac symptoms again: lethargy, malaise, heart fluttering, and an increased heart rate. Seeking proper treatment and support from health care professionals have been a constant struggle for See, during this time, because she had felt her symptoms have been overlooked or ruled as not of concern—her emergency visit consisted of being diagnosed with the common cold as she was presenting cold-like symptoms.
Eventually, after being cleared to go home with her ever-present cardiac symptoms, See proceeded to have a, what had seemed to be, a “normal, routine” day until she had been overtaken by a terrifying, abnormal feeling that had prompted her to dial 911. It had been determined that See was, indeed, experiencing a cardiac arrest. Being a survivor of two near-death events, See’s health experience has significantly changed her life; she and her immediate family constantly fear that she may die on any given day, she now has to limit her physical activity, has to manage multiple medications, and felt as if she had been disempowered by the healthcare system during her many encounters with them. All of these factors have impeded healthy coping skills and affected not only her overall family dynamic, but also her quality of life.
According to Harris et al. (2016), interprofessional team-based care not only improves the coordination of care among primary health care providers, but also improves the quality of care and patient outcomes for patients experiencing chronic diseases (p. 36). Building trust, facilitating open communication, and adopting team care among professionals in primary health care establishes new practice patterns wherein the complementary backgrounds and skills health care professionals share are strengthened and proficient in achieving common health goals (Harris et al. , 2016, p. 41).
Failure to uphold effective interprofessional collaboration hinders proper assessing, planning, or evaluating patient care—causing patient dissatisfaction that evidently transforms into a negative human health experience (Hood et al. , 2013, 117). Hood et al. ’s (2013) study shows that feelings of abandonment, being uncared for, and feeling unseen by primary health care providers—all of which have been made evident in See’s story—have been root causes of patient disempowerment and powerlessness (p. 34).
While See was sharing her health experience it was noted that two years after her initial cardiac event, she had run into her electrophysiologist in the hospital setting on her way to a shceduled MRI test; her electrophysiologist informally made it known to See that there was “nothing to worry about” in regards to his findings on her patient chart. This specific unprofessional interaction, as well as the multiple incidences wherein See’s symptoms have been misinterpreted by her primary nurses, has led to her feeling that she was being disrespected in a way in which her symptoms were not taken seriously.
According to Berg Gundersen, Sørlie, and Bergvik (2017), it is common for women, who have cardiac diseases, to experience and report atypical symptoms (i. e. throat pain, back pain, and chest sensations not characterized as pain) and are led to misleading non-cardiac diagnoses (p. 36). Rather than figuratively silencing patients, health care personnel and registered nurses (RNs) should be willing to ask more questions and advocate for their patients by being more thorough with assessments, enforcing evidence-based care, utilizing sound clinical judgement, and facilitating interdisciplinary teamwork to properly address the patient’s health care goals and needs; in doing so, misdiagnosis will be prevented (Berg Gundersen et al. , 2017, p. 36). Patients having perceived that their symptoms have been disregarded will have an increased likelihood of resorting to avoidant coping strategies, including delayed help-seeking behaivour and inability to receive optimal tests and treatment for urgent cardiac conditions (Berg Gundersen et al. , 2017, p. 36).
According to Forsgärde, Attebring, & Elmqvist’s (2016) research, a situation wherein there is lack of empathy, information, and knowledge demonstrated by health care personnel towards the perspective and contents of any patient’s urgent visits would render feelings of uncertainty and distrust towards the healthcare system (p. 35). This was made evident when See recounted that she felt as if her worries in regards to her health have been received with skepticism by health care professionals wherein she is constantly receiving very vague and misleading information about her perceived conditions. This circumstance is further explained by Forsgärde et al. (2016) as: patients losing control over their own situation by feeling as if they are being treated as an object rather than a unique individual, leading to patient powerlessness (p. 34). See felt disempowered once she disclosed that she sensed the presence of judgement and discrimination, whether it be against her weight, age, and/or gender; women are under-aware and under-researched, under-diagnosed and under-treated, and under-supported within the healthcare system when it comes to heart disease (Heart and Stroke, n. d. , p. 1)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the health status of individuals and communities depends less on one’s access to health care services, but are more determined by factors such as relationships with friends and family, one’s environment, and mechanisms by which individuals and their families cope (p. 1) Social Support NetworksIn See’s narrative, it was made evident how her urgent cardiac condition had impacted her immediate family; her only daughter and mother being the most affected among all of those within her immediate family. Since her very first heart attack, See’s mother makes sure she maintains contact with See every morning and evening, every day; See also expressed the amount of empathy her nine-year-old daughter has for her mother.
Although See conveyed how it pained her to witness her loved ones having to endure this agonizing experience alongside her —the overall sense of belonging, whether it be in a tightknit community (e. g. her cardiac support group) or through the feelings of closeness with family members, provides a therapeutic effect that increases happiness and reinforces self-confidence (Waterworth, Rosenberg, Braham, Pescud, & Dimmock, 2014, p. 144). Although See had to undergo two life-threatening events, she had stated that those major events had brought her closer to her loved ones and altered her approach in life wherein she values more quality time with her children and focuses on as enhancing her well-being and quality of life on a daily basis.
As per coping skills, See disclosed that she does believe in a “higher power” and participates in spiritual practices, including attending church and reciting prayers. According to Wright and Leahey (2013), religious and spiritual beliefs, rituals, and/or practices are positively correlated with health because of its immense impact on an individual’s (and their families’) ability to cope and manage through health-related illnesses or concerns (p. 73). Religious involvement and one’s inner commitment to faith allows one to achieve positive mental health outcomes in the face of adversity and stress (Reinert, & Koenig, 2013, p. 2631).
Based on my personal and professional experience as a student nurse in an academic and clinical practice setting, I had assumed that the interdisciplinary team (physicians and registered nurses) that See, the guest speaker, has encountered during her human health experience would embody professionalism and establish therapeutic helping relationships. I had the presumption that health care personnel would always embody professionalism rather than invalidating her symptoms, and that they would constantly seek and research to find answers rather than mislead their patients through misdiagnosis and false assumptions.
While listening to See’s story, I anticipated that there would have been more respect, support, and education given as her health began to severely decline; it was unfortunate to discover that she had to conduct her own research over several years and numerous referrals to finally come across what her condition has been all along: SCAD. I admired the amount of support See received from her parents and their ever-present concern for her health on a daily basis; however, See’s perseverance and positive outlook on life amidst the occurrence of two life-threatening events is something to be commended as well.
A thirty-six-year-old adult from the community had spoken about her human health experience as a single mother of two having experienced two urgent cardiac events. Having only gained insight to a sliver of the guest speaker’s human health experience, it is evident that empowering a patient and being collaborative as an interprofessional team allows the patient’s health goals and needs to be achieved; doing so enhances the patient’s health experience and renders positive health outcomes. In addition, being surrounded by social support networks and exercising healthy coping skills determines one’s health status and health experience prior to, during, and after facing stress and adversity.
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