I would guess that the hospital is not on anyone’s “bucket list of places to go.”
Most people don’t want to be separated from their home environment and/or suffering from a debilitating medical condition. Most people don’t want to spend their savings on medical bills rather than a destination vacation. Most people don’t want to be hooked up to machines, tubes, and monitors. I think it’s safe to say that patients don’t want to be patients, stuck in a sterile place that’s far from a comfortable home.
It’s understandable, then, when patients seem subtly irritable or outright angry. It makes sense that a patient would feel despair and grief. The patients who are staying in the hospital have often experienced an enormous interruption in their lives, usually with great physical suffering that translates into vast emotional impact.
When you see how a hospital situation might seem through the patient’s eyes, you see a huge need for compassionate interaction between staff and patient. Nurses are of vital importance here.
What exactly does compassionate interaction involve? How do nurses deliver care in a way that reaches the patient and promotes a good hospital stay during this period of pain, fear, dependence, vulnerability, and uncertainty?
Here are several ways that nurses can shed light on a patient’s hospital experience.
The first part of making a patient’s stay in the hospital better has to do with open communication. If the patient isn’t able to understand what is going on, then open communication also includes the close family members of the patient. There should be constant dialogue between the staff and patient/family. The nurse has an opportunity to promote this openness probably more than any other staff member because he/she is in most contact with the patient. Care decisions should involve the patient and ultimately propel the patient toward his/her health goals. The medical staff might think they have the patient’s best interests at heart, but open communication is the only way to know exactly what the patient’s wishes are and what his/her cultural preferences might be.
Open communication with a patient upholds the person’s dignity and respect. The hospital strips patients of everything that makes them who they are: their family, their body, their privacy, their home, and sometimes even their mind. A nurse can restore dignity and respect by explaining what’s going on, giving the patient reasonable choices, encouraging independence, and educating them on home care practices. I remember bringing a basin of warm water, shampoo, and a shower cap to a patient who asked if she could wash her hair. I was all for it: if she felt like she could do it and it would make her feel more like herself despite being confined to the bed after breaking her hip, then absolutely – let’s do it.
Efficiency and Accuracy
Nursing is a profession, and being efficient and competent is not only advised but necessary for a nurse to deliver. Patients need certain tasks to be delivered on time, and often that means juggling multiple tasks at once, prioritizing what needs to be completed and when, and being accurate in the delivered tasks. For example, nurses must give medications on time, and they must give the proper amount in the proper way. It’s just part of the job. Being negligent can result in dangerous consequences. Being efficient and accurate comforts the patient. Patients shouldn’t have to be anxious that the care they are receiving is subpar. The nurse can ease the patient’s worries by performing his/her tasks dutifully and excellently and improve the patient’s stay in yet another way.
Imagine laying in a hospital bed, completely dependent for all things, and the person you interact with is abrasive, condescending, and rude. How horrible would that be? It’s a basic human desire to have a connection with other humans, and it becomes all the more important when the fragility of life is called into question (as is often the case when you are staying in the hospital). A friendly nurse can make a patient feel welcome and more peaceful in such painful and unfamiliar circumstances.
It’s always a good reminder that nurses, no matter how much experience we have, do not know the individual story of each patient. While diagnoses can be applied to many different individuals, each person’s disease manifests in different ways, and each person responds to the disease differently.
My first patient in the ICU had been readmitted for the seventh time because of DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). In my mind, I asked myself – why can’t you just give your insulin like you’re supposed to? Why don’t you comply with your medication regimen? But as my time unfolded with this patient, and I learned more about his background, I realized he didn’t have access to the insulin he needed. My immediate sweeping judgment was way off basis. I use that instance to remind myself that my job is as a nurse, not a judge. I’m called to be diligent and provide the care needed for the patient. Judgments simply create barriers, and barriers inhibit solid nurse-patient relationships from being created.
Most often, patients do not want to be in the hospital, so these options are various ways that nurses can reach their patients who are suffering physically and mentally. Ultimately, patients should feel secure in the hospital despite a state of total dependence, and nurses can try in small ways to make the most of what tends to be seen as an unwanted interruption in the life of the patient.
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