Whether you work in the inpatient setting or at an outpatient clinic or office, most of your patients are not happy to be there. There are certainly cases where parents are bringing in their children for yearly well-child visits, which can be happy occasions. And when a patient returns for a follow-up visit that provides him or her with a positive prognosis, it is also cause for happiness.
But in most cases, there is something wrong with the patient. They are experiencing pain, suffering and, likely, stress over what it all means. They are trusting you, the physicians and the rest of the care team to provide them with what they need so they can go home. And in some cases, they are hoping you ease their suffering.
The Physicians Practice publication has some good tips for doctors, which can also apply to the nurses. There is also an interesting article about this subject in the Huffington Post. But from a nursing perspective, the way to ease suffering of patients can be linked to three key factors:
Creating a positive outlook for the patient, regardless of their health issue, can go a long way in helping them change the chatter going on in their head to something less dire and more positive. Use caution when trying to paint this positive picture, however. It is not about making promises about a health outcome, but finding something they can focus on that is, indeed, positive. This could be recognizing that they have someone who cared enough to come visit them or bring them to their appointment, or that they are in the best place to receive care for their situation.
When you are with the patient, give them your full attention. Even if the news of their illness or prognosis may not be optimal, they will look to you for a level of compassion and attention. Looking into their eyes when you talk, being present when you listen to their questions and answering questions in clear terms are all ways to show you are paying attention to them.
One of the greatest things a nurse brings to the table of care is a palpable level of compassion. Nurses are generally the ones patients will turn to for physical, emotional and mental comfort. Expressing compassion and empathy can lessen the burden on the patient to handle their illness or situation alone, opening the door for them to relax and know they are in good hands. Additionally, they will know they are in the hands of someone who truly cares about them!
As you focus on creating happier patients through the type conscious care you provide, also remember that your nursing environment can impact your ability to follow through on this. FierceHealthcare addressed this topic in an article, also indicating that it is important that nurses must start the caring for themselves and each other so that they can then bring this to their patients.
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