"I didn't ask her to be there for me; she was just there." These words of a patient describing a team member rang in my head over and over again.
Many patients still go to "see the doctor" or "talk to the nurse," yet there are many other healthcare professionals -- a multidisciplinary team, really -- prepared to provide care and presence even when patients don't expect it or don't know to ask for it.
Social workers, chaplains, dieticians, navigators, health promoters -- these are the kind of healthcare professionals patients are likely to have access to without even fully understanding the scope of their care. Depending on the integration of the supportive care team with the inpatient or outpatient clinical team(s), these associates may be available by referral, caring for patients only at the indication of another team member, or they may be a constant presence, assessing each patient for opportunities to impact care. The latter indicates a strong commitment to holistic care with provided, diverse human resources.
Unfortunately, not all organizations have these multidisciplinary teams readily available due to resource constraints, and the patients may never know the difference -- because they don't know what they don't know.
Patients may not have any idea what a social worker can do for them; they may have never spoken to a dietician in relation to their diagnosis; they may have otherwise thought chaplain care was unnecessary. Until that healthcare professional has an unsolicited presence. The patient never asked for such complete care, but he receives it. When these healthcare professionals are available, it's beautiful, unsolicited care from every aspect.
How closely do you work with oncology supportive healthcare professionals? Are you part of a multidisciplinary cancer care team? If not, are nurses expected to absorb the responsibility of other team members?