In 1960, Harriet Gudenburr embarked on a nursing career that would span more than five decades and would touch the lives of hundreds of patients. In September 2011, Harriet retired from her position at Allegheny General Hospital where she had established the Informed Decision Making program at the hospital’s Breast Care Center. Using the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation’s suite of breast cancer Shared Decision-Making® programs, Harriet and her team worked with patients to ensure shared decision making (SDM) opportunities for patients on their breast cancer journeys.
Harriet first heard about SDM in 2005 and was intrigued by the concept. Though her own medical education had taught her a paternalistic style of medicine, Harriet believed it wasn’t too late to learn something new. After receiving funding from the Foundation, and persuading her colleagues, Harriet brought SDM to life at Allegheny’s Breast Care Center.
“Shared decision making just has to be,” says Harriet. “It is important to remind patients of what is available to them and to help make their experience a little easier.”
Since the program’s inception, 705 patients were referred to the program and 90% of those referrals received decision support by Harriet and her team. “It has been a joy to work with such a tireless champion for shared decision making,” says Meg Bowen, Foundation implementation manager. “Patients who participated in the Informed Decision Making program at Allegheny knew they were never alone in their journey with Harriet and her team by their side.”
“Harriet’s passion for her work was palpable,” says Richard Wexler, Foundation director of patient support strategies. “When she spoke about SDM, she was irresistible.”
Although Harriet is now retired, she is adamant about continuing to be involved in the program’s future development. She hopes that Allegheny will integrate shared decision support for a number of other medical conditions in the near future.