When a patient gets a troubling diagnosis, it can be easy for them to feel disheartened and alone. As a nurse working with prostate and bladder cancer patients at The James, Patrick DiMeo makes sure that people in these difficult situations never lose hope for their future.
It is this ability to instill hope in others that led Patrick to being awarded with an Edward C. Kaps Hope Award from Us TOO (an international prostate cancer education and support network). This recognition is given to those who show outstanding, dedicated service to prostate cancer survivors and their families.
How does Patrick inspire hope in his patients? We asked Patrick about his background, the role of hope in nursing and survivorship, and his tips for helping others keep their spirits up.
Tell us a little bit about you.
I was born in Rome, Italy and am adopted. I came to the United States when I was eight months old. I graduated from The Ohio State University College of Nursing and have been a James employee since it opened in July of 1990. I wanted to help people, and I felt the field of nursing would be best suited for me. I did some clinical work in surgical oncology as a student then became a SNA (Student Nursing Assistant). My nurse manager, Gail Davidson, asked me if I would want to continue working on that floor and with the James opening the following year, I could not have asked for a better direction. We started to take care of urology patients in 1991 and I really liked that population. I took a liking to prostate cancer patients.
What does your job entail?
Currently, I see patients in Urology/Medical Oncology who have prostate and bladder cancer and are mostly having sexual dysfunction issues. For patients who have surgery, we have a specific rehab program that can help them regain sexual function. We encourage their partners to come to the appointment so we can explain to them what is happening and why. I also explain their treatment plan and include their partners so they can be an active participant in their care. We have learned that good patient education has been helpful in their progress and has led to better compliancy. The Department of Survivorship will be expanding its sexual function services to other disease processes. The department will also be initiating an oncofertility program at The James. I'm looking forward to being part of that team.
How do you instill hope in patients?
I believe it is vitally important to be honest with our patients and provide good information to them. Patients appreciate when we explain what is happening and how they can help with their care plan. When patients feel actively involved in their care, it provides them with hope because they have some control over things. No one chooses to get cancer and the patient loses control over a lot of things, but providing them with information, statistics and a game plan helps them feel better about themselves and have hope so they can return to some sort of normalcy in their lives. I do not treat each person the same; I treat each person individually based on what I believe is best for them. I have faith and pray that I do that properly.
What does "hope" mean to you? Why is it important and what can it do?
Hope to me means having confidence in yourself and the outcomes you would like. These are things we may not have control over, but a person's attitude is very important. I have a great deal of "faith" in my life and that comes from my upbringing and family. When a person has confidence, which comes from hard work and preparation, then good things can come from that. I can only control the things that I can control: my attitude, work ethic and beliefs based on life experiences. Each of us has a talent given to us, but we have the responsibility to utilize it. Hope is part of the continuation of using that talent and sharing it with others to help them in their situation.
How did you develop these skills in the first place? Who or what in your life had an influence?
Some of it is just how I was created but my parents and family also has influenced me. I grew up in an Italian-Catholic family and faith, hope and love is just part of what I always have known. I do not know different, nor do I want to know that. I saw what my parents and extended family did for each other and for me. I want to do that for my family, and I feel very blessed in my life to have the skills to help people in their cancer journey. Both of my parents had cancer and died from it, so I personally know its impact. Providing hope to a patient or family in their journey is very rewarding, and it helps me keep my faith and provide hope to others.
How can others work to inspire hope in those around them?
Each of us got into the profession that we did for a specific reason and what matters is why we did so. We need to remember that each patient has a story and their story is what counts. We are not all created equal but we are all equal in deserving to be treated with the best care available. The James faculty and staff has tremendous talent, skills and knowledge and it is our responsibility to direct, guide and demonstrate that to our patients. Our patients come here because they need our help in their journey, and when we share our skill sets, compassion and understanding with them then good outcomes can occur. We can provide them with truthful information, what they can do to help themselves and a game plan. By doing this, we can provide hope that they can conquer their diagnosis, and survivorship can be a positive experience.
The medical center's values are inclusiveness, determination, empathy, sincerity, ownership and innovation. Does one of these values ring true to you or your department? If so, which one and how is it demonstrated?
I would say inclusiveness. We here in Survivorship and in the GU clinic setting include the patient and partner in the plan of care. Our responsibility is to provide the patient and partner information on what we have and how we can help them. We include them in deciding what is best for them and how we can plan accordingly. Having their involvement makes compliancy much better and that leads to better patient satisfaction.
Anything else you'd like to share about your job, coworkers or working at Ohio State?
I am extremely proud to be an alumnus of The Ohio State University and very fortunate to be working at The James. Being part of The James is a second family to me. I have met many great friends who care deeply about what they do and represent The James extremely well. This great institution provides a lifetime of memories – from working different shifts to meeting people from all walks of life to potlucks and happy hours to tailgates, Buckeye sporting events and more. I met my wife here and both of my sons were born here. No matter where I travel to, I always see someone wearing Ohio State stuff and it makes me smile. I take great pride and am blessed in being part of The James family. If you cut me open, I bleed scarlet… O-H!
Thank you, Patrick, for Improving People's Lives!