ME: How would you advise your peers to foster that balance during patient interactions?
Harpham: My first message to my colleagues is that there is always something to hope for and it’s our role to guide patients to healing hopes, whichever hopes help patients get good care and live as fully as possible. It’s important that we don’t use language that extinguishes hope. As long as there is any uncertainty about the future, there is room for hope. It is our job to leave open the door to hope and then let patients figure out how much hope they want to have and which hopes they want to focus on.
Another way that we can really help patients is by helping them separate expectation from hope. Expectation is the outcome you think—you expect—to happen. Hope is the outcome you want to happen and believe is possible, even if it’s not likely. Expectation is a state of mind that helps patients accept and prepare. Hope is a state of heart that helps patients live. We can teach patients they can accept and expect the likely outcome and prepare for it while, at the very same time, they can hope for the best possible outcome.
ME: What do you hope physicians take away from your book?
Harpham: Hope is central to healing. And hope is language that is very familiar and comfortable for patients. My hope is that my colleagues talk about hope and change the conversation about hope with their patients. I hope that my colleagues see and seize the opportunities in every patient interaction to guide and support patient’s efforts to find healing hopes that help them get good care and live as fully as possible.