Preparing Patients to Care for Themselves After Discharge

Here’s your prescription. Don’t drive if you take it. Call your surgeon if you have a temperature or are worried about anything. See your doctor in two weeks. Want a flu shot? If you need a wheelchair to take you to the door, I’ll call. If not, you can go. Take care of yourself. You’ll do great!”

These were my nurse’s parting words before I left the hospital after a weeklong stay and surgery to remove my stomach and the tumor in it. I said goodbye. Then I panicked. What did I need to know about my new digestive system? What about that big scar? Until then I’d been closely monitored and checked on every 90 minutes.

Now it was 8:45 in the morning. My husband hadn’t arrived. I was supposed to move on.

Jessie Gruman

Jessie Gruman

That’s the start of our July Viewpoint column, “Preparing Patients to Care for Themselves,” written by Jessie Gruman, president and founder of the the Center for Advancing Health, a nonpartisan policy institute that’s played an important role in the growing patient engagement movement.

In this essay and elsewhere, Gruman draws on her own experience as a cancer patient as well as her public health expertise to bring insight and clarity to the often nebulous concept of patient engagement.

With greater success in treating certain types of cancer, and more and more people living with one or more chronic illness, patients increasingly need the tools and confidence to become partners in their own care. Such phrases, used too often, can becomes clichés that we no longer really hear—but the stakes are very high for both patients and institutions.

Perhaps at no time is this more true than before hospital discharge. In this short essay, which focuses on preparing patients to leave the hospital, Gruman elaborates on the following three central pieces of advice for nurses and other clinicians:

  • “First, welcome and include us in our care from the moment we arrive.”
  • “Second, help reduce our uncertainty.”
  • “Third, help us acquire the skills we need to contribute both in the hospital and at home.”

But read the essay for the details that matter (for the best version, click through to the PDF in the upper right of the article page). Are hospitals and medical facilities doing all they can to empower patients and their families before discharge (and, in many cases, prevent readmissions that didn’t have to happen)?—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

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(Editor’s note. The problems with the links to Jessie’s AJN article in this post should have now been fixed. Sorry about the inconvenience.)

2016-11-21T13:04:18+00:00 July 11th, 2014|Nursing|2 Comments
Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Jacob M July 15, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Sherry, thank you for letting us know that sad news. The AJN article by Jessie Gruman linked to in this post is available in entirety to anyone who clicks the link.-Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

  2. @cascadia sherry reynolds July 15, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Sadly Jessie passed away tonight (July 14th)

    It would be a great tribute if her article was accessible so that as many patient advocates as possible could learn from it.

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