Caring for Patients Is a Team Sport


To conclude our interview with him, Ravin Ratan, MD, MEd, of MD Anderson, explains the importance of caring for all patients and why he tries to own the process of patients feeling confident that they received the attention they deserve.

On his profile page for the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Ravin Ratan, MD, MEd, associate professor, Department of Sarcoma Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine, has received many positive comments that highlight his dedication to patient care, his compassion, his collaboration with patients and care teams, and that he thoroughly explains everything to patients.

To conclude our interview with him, here he explains the importance of caring for all patients, especially those for whom the outcome was not what you expected, and why he tries to own the process of patients feeling confident that they received the attention they deserve.

This transcript has been lightly edited.


Why is it so important to cultivate a patient-centered care approach into your daily practice?

Medical oncology specifically is very much a patient-facing specialty. You take care of patients who are likely to be cured of their disease and you take care of patients who are also very likely to pass from their disease. Sometimes you know who those patients are when you meet them, and sometimes you do not. You've got patients who defy all expectations and are coming back to see you many years after a diagnosis that you expected would be fatal rapidly, and you have patients who should have done well who don't. And I think you learn very quickly that you try as a physician, as a care team—I should say that anything that is said about me is probably more a reflection of the nurse and nurse practitioner with whom I work, who are really special and dedicated people—you learn that you don't necessarily get to control anyone's outcome.

I think at the end of the day, your hope is that you are contributing positively to what that outcome is, but you don't get to decide. The thing that you have control over is the confidence that a patient has in their care team, so that they feel at the end of the day that they were cared for by someone who was invested in them, who was knowledgeable, and that when their knowledge sort of was at its limits was willing to get help. Because you can give confidence in the process; you can't own the outcome. That outcome ultimately is something that you will feel as a doctor, but it's going to be felt much more personally by the patient, by the family members and friends who love them. And so I try really hard to own process, to make sure that we feel like people had the attention that they deserve, that I've been available to them when they needed them.

Even that takes a team. I think it's me being able to sit for 45 minutes with a patient who needs me that day because I know I have a nurse practitioner who can attend to other patients who don't need that from me on that day—they're in the middle of treatment, things are going smoothly, and sort of may not need that level of support. And so having people who understand that that's how we're going to prioritize how we spend time with patients throughout the day is sort of key to being able to do that. I think caring for patients is a team sport.

Comments and evaluations are always nice, although I always feel it's kind of unfair that they go under my name. The fact that I work in a place where everyone from the people who prepare the rooms for patients to those preparing the meals for patients in the hospital are invested and proud of the fact that we're here to take care of people with cancer. It makes it really easy to have people walk away with a positive impression. And so I try not to focus too much on those. I try to earn them when I can, and I also recognize that there are times when we fall short and those are times we try to think about as well.

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