The Nurse Optimist

Being positive, genuine caring and practicing empathy don't cost us extra as professional nurses but they can make all the difference in the care we offer our patients. This article discusses strategies to develop those characteristics. Nurses General Nursing Article

The Nurse Optimist

The Nurse Optimist

Being on the consumer side of nursing is eye-opening. As they wheeled my mother back to the holding area, I walked beside her, ready to take her hearing assistance devices once the staff were done asking her questions and going over the pre-op procedure prior to the repair of her fractured hip.

It was out of the norm for me to be back there, so I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible and stand clear of any traffic. The nurses, anesthesiologist, surgeon came and went, each with their own list of questions and duties, but all with compassion in their eyes and kindness in their touch. I felt proud to be a nurse as I stood by, watching my peers make things better, safer, as perfect as possible for my dear mom and the other patients around us.

My mom's nurse, in particular, stood out. She wasn't bubbly or perky which might have been annoying at the time, but she was simply correct for the situation: professional, reserved, and above all, caring. I had seen her before as we walked the same halls from time to time, but I had never witnessed the way she took care of her patients before. Back in pre-op and PACU, she was in her element: confident and comfortable.

As she finished up her duties and told mom there would be a slight delay, she asked mom if there was anything else she could do. Mom, deeply spiritual, said she wanted to have prayer and the nurse stood with her and held her hand as I prayed. Respectful and calm, she helped mom deal with the delay in an already stressful time after a fall, the resultant pain and unexpected surgery.

As I left the area carrying my mom's various hearing devices, I thought about the nurse's approach. What was it that made her so special? How can we be that nurse that we all want to have when we are facing a life-crisis?

Focus on the positive

As nurses, each day we have a choice of how we view our world. Yes, there are lots of negatives but my goodness, let us not forget the strides we have made and the positive outcomes we see every day. We participate in grand miracles of healing almost daily and yet we often cannot see the bigger picture of good and instead focus in on what is wrong. There are lots of things that really do work well: we generally have adequate linens, food, hygiene supplies. Trash gets picked up, ice is available, antibiotics still kill germs (most germs...), surgery still repairs broken hips and ruptured colons, blood products are available to restore life, and the list goes on. When we pause to consider the good, and to be thankful, we can put the negatives back in the perspective they need to be in. It is important to address our shortcomings, to see our faults, to correct mistakes, but none of us thrive in a clime of fear and judgment. We all need to continue to encourage and lift one another up.

Caring doesn't cost

The nurse that took care of mom conveyed true compassion. It wasn't sappy or dramatic; it was genuine. She was a professional who did her job well and truly cared for her patient. What was noticeable also was what she didn't share: she didn't tell us about herself or about her lack of sleep or her aching feet or how short staffed they were. Those things might have been true but if she had shared them with us, we could not have helped her and it would have diminished the comfort she provided. There are times to share personally, but the bedside is not one of them. The last thing our patients need is to have to take care of us.

Practice empathy

How does true compassion differ from pity and sympathy? If words are kin to one another, then compassion and empathy are cousins who walk around in each other's shoes helping one another out, while pity and sympathy feel bad and sit side-by-side and don't do much. Empathy requires practice, digging deep in ourselves to find ways to connect with our patients and their needs. Empathy anticipates needs and works to implement them. Being empathetic can be draining but it is also one of the ways that we get into a space in our practice that is truly rewarding. When we are in it for the long haul, our rewards come from empathetic responses that bridge barriers and allow us to truly care for others as fellow humans.

Mom went on to an uneventful recovery, surely assisted by a great nursing, surgical and rehab team. The care and compassion of the nursing staff around the time of her surgery left a lasting impression on me and renewed the desire to provide more of the kind of care we experienced.


Joy has been a nurse for 30+ years and currently practices as a Faith Community Nurse. She loves playing with her grandkids, cooking for a crowd and hiking.

83 Articles   560 Posts

Share this post

Share on other sites
Specializes in kids.

A motto or belief from my undergrad school was pretty simple...

Be Your Best Self

Thank you for this article. I'm currently in school but I plan to print this and keep it handy. This is the kind of nurse I want to be.

Specializes in ED.

I had a physician once tell me that I shouldn't be so kind to a particular patient because he was just drug seeking and didn't want to see me taken advantage of. I told him that it doesn't cost me anything to be kind no matter why they were in the ER. He never mentioned it again.

Specializes in Faith Community Nurse (FCN).
I had a physician once tell me that I shouldn't be so kind to a particular patient because he was just drug seeking and didn't want to see me taken advantage of. I told him that it doesn't cost me anything to be kind no matter why they were in the ER. He never mentioned it again.

I love your response! Way to go and BE. Joy

I've been the patient and the family member. If a nurse was outstanding, much like you stated, I remember their name. Had to sign a family member into Hospice. Worse day of my life, but it was abiding by my relative's wishes. Nurse called me and then waited for me to drive a long distance. She was very empathetic and expressed that her news was very upsetting, to pull myself together, then drive. My relative was in rehab and they admitted him to the hospital for a procedure that he didn't want. I'd only been to see him the day before. We'd had a chat maybe two weeks prior to that. Multiple comorbidities. He'd had enough. That was over five years ago. Her name is still in my heart for helping me fulfill those wishes.:inlove: