The Power of Being Empathetic Towards Those in Need
A nurse reaches out to a patient during a time of need. This patient had experienced a traumatic loss and desperately needed to talk to someone. The nurse saw this urgent need and watched how others never gave this patient the time.
This precious time gave the patient the ability to share the story, thus allowing the nurse to show emotions and be empathetic towards the patient. Later, this small moment of time, resulted in a small return favor that showed a great appreciation for the nurse and proved the nurses theory.
Every evening, I go into work, as a Registered Nurse, expecting to have a typical night with the same type of patients. All of the patients are here for recovery from their drug addictions, so each night is similar to the night before.... Administer medication, do some brief assessments, and keep the peace for them.
Then one special patient stands out on this particular night. The one patient that experienced a life-changing event... The one that came to not only recover from the addiction they had, but to develop a whole new life.
What is so different with this patient as compared to all the others?
This patient has experienced a terrible loss. An accident that has been life changing, the loss of a young child due to a brief loss of attention. I have heard through the daily nursing report about this tragic loss, but I wanted to be available for my patient. Most other nurses just went on about their business during their shifts, but not me...
It was this one night that I told this patient "I'm not a professional, but I am here for you if you need to talk to someone or just have someone listen."
This patient was so grateful to have a nurse open up and reach out that he ended up sharing the whole story about how this brief moment had cost one young child's life... A car accident, plummeting off a 30-foot drop, leaving a young child lifeless while another young child injured. My emotions showed through my tears streaming down my face as I felt this patients pain. I only wish I could rewind time and bring life back into this child's life. The most I could do is give my words of condolences. I had wanted to give this patient a huge hug, but that crosses the patient/nurse boundary.
I did not realize how much this brief conversation of empathy had affected this patient until my next shift. Every night, when I come into work, I pull the medications for the diabetic patients since they get their medications upon awakening in the morning. This particular morning, this same patient did not come up to get the morning medications as scheduled; therefore, the medications sat there for some time.
My shift had ended and the patient came later to get the medications.
Another nurse had thought the medications were already administered and the patient was very upset and took the time to write up a grievance report and put it into the grievance box (which is under lock and key with only a slot to put the paper in). Just after slipping the paper into the slot, did a technician inform the patient that "I", the nurse was the one that had pulled the medications the night before.
It was at that time that the patient stated that the intention was not to have written the grievance on me, the nurse. Apparently, the patient did not like the other nurse, as she never took the time to "listen" to her patients (as other patients had complained to me).
This same patient then went over and picked up the grievance box, flipped it upside down, and out fell the one piece of paper that was just put in (that he had written). The patient stated, "It must've been by the grace of God that the paper fell out", per the technician. The patient proceeded to rip the paper up and go about the day.
So the important thing to learn about this whole story?
Just take a few extra moments to connect with those you are caring for... just listen to what they have to say and do not be afraid to show some emotion. Even if the payback is near to nothing, the patient is all that matters! This brought on a great feeling to know that my empathetic side makes such a huge difference in others' lives. Now, this is what "nursing" to me is all about!
The patient did recover from the addiction and did have some great resources for the depression that followed the death of the young child. The patient was very grateful for my time to listen to the story revolving the car accident. If all nurses could take just a few extra moments out of their time for each of their patients, then my theory is that patients will ultimately feel happier since they sense that their nurse is actually caring about them and not just treating their ailments. My belief is to treat the whole patient, not just their disease process.Last edit by Joe V on Jan 10, '15
I am a Registered Nurse in the State of Arizona with two beautiful young children. I am pursuing my Master's Degree in Family Nurse Practitioner at the beginning of the year. One of my dreams is to create a strong provider-patient relationship among all my patients once I am a FNP and to hopefully create a new method of treatment that includes "listening" to patients with each visit, thus treating the whole person.
From 'Phoenix, AZ'; 34 Years Old; Joined Feb '08; Posts: 291; Likes: 69.
Must Read Topics3Aug 21, '12 by TheCommuter, ASN, RN Senior ModeratorThank you so very much for sharing your story. Patients enter the system with the main intention of receiving healthcare, but they also want to be acknowledged as individuals in their own right. You listened to your patient, provided the acknowledgment, and showed that you cared through your actions. Kudos to you!1Aug 21, '12 by MystyqueOneQuote from MulanI suppose I didn't make that clear. My apologies. I wish I could edit the article to clarify that point. The other nurse on the new shift refused to give the patient the medications and assumed the medications were already given, therefore upsetting the patient and forcing the grievance letter to be written.Good story.
I get your point and it's a good one.
I don't understand, however, what he was writing a grievance about in the first place.
Thank you for reading.0Aug 22, '12 by LightenedLuminationI know something of that magnitude was not only life changing for the patient but definitely you as well. I'm currently in nursing school (first day today) and although i have never been a nurse, I volunteered in a hospital (kitchen) during Hurricane Katrina while i was living in Slidell, Louisiana. i was about 16 at the time. Hearing about how pts knew nothing of their family, belongings, where they were (as they were airlifted), etc, I knew it was overwhelming for them. I listened to them, gave them water, and was just there to listen to them in their desperate time of need. Being there mentally and emotionally for them made their transition just a little bit easier. I couldn't change anything that happen but i feel it's the response which makes the difference.1Aug 25, '12 by MountainRN53I have been a nurse for almost 19 years in Home health and LTC facilities. I just started at an LTC about a week ago after relocating to the area. I am new to the residents and trying to gain trust while being bombed with a huge med pass. It is so hard to be kind and rush at the same time. I would love to take extra time to listen to my patients stories like you and others who have responded. God Bless everyone. Great story!0Aug 27, '12 by sukiathomeThat is what I live for in nursing. No matter what area I work or where I work. I want to be there for the patient. A machine can dispense medications but only another living breathing feeling human being can truly offer empathy and support for whatever trauma experience any patient has been through. Who am I to judge them? I've not walked a day in their shoes.0Quote from LindseyRN86Thank you for reading. Showing the world a kind face is what nursing is all about! Thanks so much!Very powerful. You never know what others are going through until you spend a day in their shoes. Bravo to you!!! Thank-you for being so kind and showing the world a kind face0Quote from LightenedLuminationThank you for sharing your story also! That is very touching. If we all take only one extra moment with our patients to listen to what they want to share, I truly think patients' health may improve drastically. Think about it, there is scientific research that shows that depression highly inhibits healing within one's life. So, by nurses reaching out to our patients, shows that we truly care for them as a whole person, thus decreasing any depression they may have and improving their health a little at a time.I know something of that magnitude was not only life changing for the patient but definitely you as well. I'm currently in nursing school (first day today) and although i have never been a nurse, I volunteered in a hospital (kitchen) during Hurricane Katrina while i was living in Slidell, Louisiana. i was about 16 at the time. Hearing about how pts knew nothing of their family, belongings, where they were (as they were airlifted), etc, I knew it was overwhelming for them. I listened to them, gave them water, and was just there to listen to them in their desperate time of need. Being there mentally and emotionally for them made their transition just a little bit easier. I couldn't change anything that happen but i feel it's the response which makes the difference.
Thank you for reading!1Quote from MountainRN53Thank you for reading! WHen I did my med pass, as I was reaching for their meds, I would also ask them how they were doing, taking an extra moment to show an interest. That's how the first door is opened... the door to invitation. Yes, I understand that the med pass has to be done by a certain hour, but maybe start a slightly bit earlier to allow for those few extra moments. Then, after the med pass, I may return to the patients, especially the ones that took an interest in wanting to share their stories, and take a few more moments to hear their stories. There have been days that I'd be at my work for an hour past my shift ended, just talking and listening to my patient's stories they had to share. I don't do that all the time since I am pretty exhausted after a full day's work, but when I do, it surely makes a world of difference for those patients. I've had a couple patients return to my unit just to say Hello to me and see how I've been doing and also to thank me. Now that is what makes my day!I have been a nurse for almost 19 years in Home health and LTC facilities. I just started at an LTC about a week ago after relocating to the area. I am new to the residents and trying to gain trust while being bombed with a huge med pass. It is so hard to be kind and rush at the same time. I would love to take extra time to listen to my patients stories like you and others who have responded. God Bless everyone. Great story!0Quote from sukiathomeVery true! No judgement allowed (so to speak). The main aspect in nursing, I believe, is empathy. I've written in another of my responses how I believe that our few extra moments of empathy has a drastic effect on the patient's healing process by ever so slightly reducing any depression they may be experiencing, or by improving their well-being. It only takes an extra moment. I've also made sure that when a patient speaks to me, I give them my full undivided attention. I look them in the eyes while smiling attentively and I've had such great feedback that they've all enjoyed my attentive listening while they share their stories. I don't ever look at my papers or phone or watch as that just shows disgrace to the patient or that we aren't interested in hearing what they have to say. It's all about the way we show our empathy also.That is what I live for in nursing. No matter what area I work or where I work. I want to be there for the patient. A machine can dispense medications but only another living breathing feeling human being can truly offer empathy and support for whatever trauma experience any patient has been through. Who am I to judge them? I've not walked a day in their shoes.
Thank you so much for reading!