Nurses have to deal with very difficult, heart-breaking, and emotional situations every day. This is part of their role, and it’s something that they’ll never quite get used to. It can, however, become easier to handle over time.
Nurses must know how to deal with these situations because not only will it help them to process what they have had to do and witness, but it will also help the person who is suffering, as well as their friends and family members. In other words, no matter what trauma the nurse themselves is seeing, they have to be compassionate and say the right things to the people who need their help and are looking for guidance.
This is not always easy, and for many, it’s not something that comes naturally – it takes a lot of experience and learning to get to this point.
Compassion is clearly an important part of nursing, however, so knowing what to do and say to ensure you are conveying your compassionate side is crucial, and it’s important to ensure you are learning how to do it better as you go along. This is what makes a good nurse become a great one. With that in mind, here are some excellent tips to help you show compassion when you’re a nurse and ensure that you do your job to the best of your abilities.
Listen To Your Patients
The first thing that a nurse will need to do if they want to show empathy and feel more compassionate is to listen to their patients. This doesn’t just mean a cursory understanding of what is being said and a quick smile and nod in response; that’s just hearing. When we say listen, that’s what we mean – you really have to listen. When you can do this, you’ll pick up on so much more than just what the patient is saying; you’ll understand the deeper meaning behind it, and you’ll get an idea of what they’re not saying as well. This is because you’re not just listening to the words but taking in the body language and the expression on their faces as well.
Of course, it’s not always easy to listen in a busy medical environment. You’ll have a number of patients who all need your attention as well, so it can be hard to focus. However, a compassionate nurse will know who they need to listen to most at that time, and they will divide their time in the right way. Once you have the information you need through listening, you can offer much better guidance and give them the right help too.
If you find that you want to have considerably more one-to-one time with your patients, you might find this hard as an RN who is pulled in a lot of different directions. In that case, studying to advance your nursing career, and entering a field in which there are fewer patients and where you can really devote your time to being compassionate and helping everyone individually, might be a good option for you. It’s certainly something worth investigating further.
Show Genuine Interest
Compassion is both a simple and a difficult thing to get right. It all comes down to how you are when you are with your patients. An efficient nurse who is able to help people quickly might do a good job at handling the medical aspect of things, but they might not take the time to also deal with the emotional side of things, and this is an issue. After all, nurses really need to take a holistic approach to health, ensuring that every aspect of patient care is looked after to ensure a speedier, more positive recovery.
One thing that can be truly compassionate and that every nurse will be able to do to some extent, no matter how busy or tired they might be, is to take and show a genuine interest in their patients and what they have to say. We’ve already mentioned how important it is to listen, but you also need to respond to what is being said. You need to ask questions, express surprise or admiration at stories, and generally engage with the patient.
As we’ve said, this is not something that is easy for everyone, but over time and with experience and practice, it can be something that all nurses are able to do, and this will help to make them much more compassionate.
Express Empathy When Appropriate
Empathy means that you can relate to what someone is saying due to some kind of shared experience. For example, if a patient were to talk about how much they missed their dog while they were in hospital, and you have a dog yourself and would also miss them if you had to be away from them, you can empathize. Being able to express this empathy when the time is right is an important element when it comes to compassion, and it will help the patient feel less alone and afraid.
You do need to be careful, however. Too much empathy can come across as false and can make the patient wary – they might think you’re just agreeing with them to make them happy, and once that thought enters their head, they will lose some trust in you, which makes treating them more difficult. Not only that, but you don’t want to give away too much about yourself because you need to remain professional if you are going to do your job well. So when being empathetic, take care not to go too far; only do it if the situation calls for it and it will help.
Acknowledge Your Patient’s Feelings
Regardless of what you think of the way your patient is handling their health situation, or whether you think they don’t quite understand what is happening or they are getting carried away and overly dramatic; you need to acknowledge their feelings as this is a good way to show compassion.
Not everyone is going to react in the way you expect when you give them news – good or bad – about their condition and overall health. Just because you would be upset (or otherwise), that doesn’t mean they will or should feel the same. Even if they do, that doesn’t mean they will show it or react in an appropriate way. The fact is, everyone is different, and it’s almost impossible to tell how someone will deal with any information given to them. No matter what they do or say or how they react, you need to acknowledge this. It might not be what you were expecting, and it might not be what you would consider ‘right’, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. Let the patient express themselves and be there for them; this is a great example of compassion and why it can sometimes be a hard thing to get right.
There will be days, as a nurse, that are frustrating and tiring. You’ll be exhausted, and you might even feel irritable. Perhaps you didn’t get the break you were looking forward to, or maybe it seems that every patient is asking for too much all at once. These days are inevitable and unfortunately more common than much quieter, easier days are.
The problem is that when you feel so stressed and overwhelmed, you might rush through what you need to do. You want to take a break or you need to hurry to the next patient, for example. The only thing is, this is not a good way to show compassion. The ideal way to show compassion is to take a step back, take a deep breath, and take your time with your patients as you normally would. Keep your tone of voice calm and caring too; you might not realize it, but this can make all the difference in the world – even if you don’t have a lot of time to spend with your patient, a kind word said in a kind way can alleviate some problems.
Respect Your Patients’ Privacy
There isn’t a lot of privacy in a healthcare facility. People will be coming and going all the time. Tests and checks have to be made, and it is generally a busy place, often with little room to spare – even if a patient has a private room as opposed to being on a ward.
As a nurse who wants to show compassion, sometimes not going to your patient (unless they need you, that is) is the best thing to do. For example, perhaps they are near the end of their life and they want some private time with family and friends – you can give them that time. Or maybe they are exhausted and just need to sleep – you can give them that too, even if it means pushing back the next round of checks. Although you should never compromise patient care, you can do small things to give them privacy when it’s needed, and this is a great help and a great way to show compassion.