Informatics in the care of thyroid cancer


I am a survivor of thyroid cancer – yeah, almost 8 years out!  Although I do not wish cancer on anyone, I can truly say that it has helped me as a nurse by truly understanding what the patient is going through.  I have been fortunate enough to be a patient at one of the world’s leading cancer hospitals for both research and cancer care and prevention. My journey with informatics at this hospital has been an interesting one of both healing and learning.  On my first visit in 2002, they were still using paper charts.  Pretty much no patient there sees just one physician.  I saw a head and neck surgeon and an endocrinologist and carried my chart from one appointment or study to the next.  Being the nurse-patient that I am, I felt compelled to take my chart into the restroom so I could snoop through it to make sure the doctors were telling me everything!  (They were.)  Shortly after that, they went to EMR.  I would go from one appointment to the next and they often would turn the computer screen towards me so I could see it too or print out the results of studies and reports for me.  That helped me feel informed and as if I were truly part of the care team.  Technologically, that place is awesome!  For a nurse, it’s truly an educational experience, not to mention the human examples of hope, courage and camaraderie experienced with other patients. From a thyroid cancer perspective, the technology involved lab (mainly TSH and free T4), ultrasound, PET scan after a drink of radioactive iodine and iodine ablation several weeks after surgery.  I now have graduated to the thyroid cancer survivorship program in endocrinology and also see doctors at the cancer prevention center for screenings and information in all areas of health.  I communicate with my physicians on the patient website, where I can ask questions, set up appointments, obtain knowledge and even participate in support programs to share with other patients.  On my appointment days,  I now spend the day visiting their libraries, shops, support programs or attending classes on alternative therapies such as yoga, music therapy, etc.   I receive news of the latest advances in care such as robotics, alternative therapies and stories of amazing healing.  With the advances in technology, this hospital has truly been able to offer a multi-disciplinary approach to care and healing that is accessible to both patients and care-givers alike.


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