woman cooking

Cicely, who is being treated for stage III colon cancer, has lost seven pounds between her first and second cycles of chemotherapy. She admits to Julie, an outpatient oncology nurse, that her nausea is well controlled but she just doesn’t feel like cooking meals anymore.

What Would you do?

Cicely’s story likely has more to it than is readily evident in this conversation. Motivational interviewing (MI) is a strategy that oncology nurses can use to help patients make health-related changes (Miller & Rollnick, 1995). Engaging patients in the decision-making process is a key component of MI and one that can be easily be used by remembering the mnemonic: OARS (see Table 1).

Open-ended questions: Julie asks Cicely to describe her former diet and how it is different now. Cicely reports she loved to cook; she was known for fixing big breakfasts and dinners for her extended family. Now she just doesn’t have the energy, and none of the foods she used to enjoy taste the same.

Affirming and supporting: Julie affirms Cicely’s feelings by saying, “I can see that your lack of energy and taste changes are really challenging for you.” Cicely feels heard and answers, “I wonder if I could just fix small, simple meals for now.”

Reflective listening: Julie demonstrates reflective listening by saying, “Fixing small, simple meals seems like a good way to conserve energy without having to give up doing something you enjoy.” Cicely smiles and says, “I had been thinking about feeding my family healthier meals even before I got cancer.”

Summarizing: Julie summarizes the conversation: “So, it sounds like you are thinking about conserving your energy
 by preparing simple, healthy meals for yourself and your family.” Julie adds that she will check in with Cicely at her next chemotherapy cycle to see how her new plan is working out.