I just get down at eye-level, grab a Kleenex box, put my hand on their shoulder or arm and say, "I'm sorry you have to go through this. How can I help you?" And then simply respect whether they want to cry or be to themselves. I usually conclude by saying, "we are going to take good care of you today. Please let me know what I can do for you." As much as I try to be rock-solid with my emotions in my job, I do allow myself to be human and grieve with those who grieve, give comfort to those are wronged and bring hope to those in despair. Last week I triaged a man with 2/10 left chest discomfort for one week which he ignored because he's been under a lot of stress lately. I've found that when a patient verbalizes they've "been under a lot of stress lately" that they usually are waiting to break down and need someone to talk to. So I responded with my usual "things tough at work?" "No, my dad is dying and I'm just waiting for a call any day now from the hospice nurse." Then 30 sec later as I'm getting vitals, his cell phone rings. It's the hospice nurse. He hangs up and says " I gotta go. My dad is dying today and I need to drive 5 hrs to get there. " Talk about awkward. What do you say to someone who just discovered this is there last opportunity in life to see the person who brought them into this world. I handed him a Kleenex, took one for myself, said how sorry I was for him and then tactfully convinced him (out of serious concern for AMI) to give me 4 min to do an EKG. 5 min later he was on my monitor with a MD consulting cardiology. He went straight to the cath lab. And I wondered how the doc was going to break it to him. And he sat down at his eye level and said "I really want you to be with your dad today, but your heart is not getting enough oxygen right now and maybe this is your dads way of looking out for you " the man completed accepted his words and in between an 18 gauge, o2, nitro, ASA, more nitro and the AMR transport he opened up about his dads life and actually looked less stressed than when he arrived. Sometimes people just need to know you care. And even though we might feel awkward, they don't know we feel awkward. A few simple things and a few short phrases can help them so much. I used to feel uncomfortable because I felt like I needed to have an answer, a solution to everything. Now I realize most people don't want an answer. They just need someone to listen and acknowledge what they are going through. It's a great thing to be a nurse. I hope I never take it for granted.