Nursing is a profession of caring, nurturing and understanding. We are devoted to our patients and try our absolute best to nurse them back to health. However often as nurses we can be critical and jarring towards our own patients. As a nursing student, in the process of completing my clinical rotations, I believe I know what the problem is. The issue is as nurses we become so engulfed in tasking and paperwork, that we have seem to have lost that "human touch" with our patients. We do not feel like we have enough time to truly talk to the patient and understand what is going on with them, instead we are in our charts analyzing data about what is wrong with our patients. The problem with that is, you may medically know what is wrong with the person, however psychologically you cannot begin to imagine how that person may feel and/or what personal issues they have going on at that moment. Meaning they could be dealing with financial issues, family issues, career issues and cannot do anything about it while sitting in a hospital bed.
My second clinical rotation this semester was with a patient who was very ill. I knocked on the door and walked in on him laying on his right side curled up in what appeared to be fetal position. I told him I was his nurse for the day and asked him if it would be okay for me to obtain some vital signs and ask him questions. After he said it was fine, I told him I was going to grab my medical supplies and would be back. When I came back I spoke to him for a while to obtain some health history while doing my vital signs. I spoke to him for roughly fifteen minutes listening to where he worked, how he had gotten ill, where he ended up staying after being ill and why he was in the hospital now. During this time I slowly started to realize his demeanor had started to change. He uncurled himself from the position he was in, he was smiling and louder than when I first introduced myself.
After talking to him I told him I had to excuse myself to document a few things and I would be back, he stopped me and thanked me for talking to him. He told me that during his stay at the hospital this was the most anyone had spoken to him in a matter of two weeks. I told him there was no reason to thank me and that I would be back. When I stepped out of the room I was heartbroken, not because I had gotten personal with my patient or that I had felt an attachment, rather I had thought of every individual who had stepped into that room and merely brushed him off as "just another patient". The number of nurses aids, doctors and nurses that had walked into that room said a few words, done tasking, took vitals or gave medication, never to give him more than ten minutes of their time to see how he was feeling or hear his story.
Not all patients are or can be as pleasant as mine was and I have come to terms with that, however, we become so enamored in our everyday lives we forget how frustrated, how lonely, how angry or how helpless some of our patients can feel. We forget that these are people not just our patients. Just like we have a million things running in our head at one time, our patients do too. These are people who may or may not have had a family, a spouse, a job, or unresolved issues prior to their hospitalization, which can cause a slew of emotions to form. And while each stressor of life is personal to each individual and situation, we have to understand how each individual deals with these stressors are different.
We as nurses cannot get angry or upset at a patient who is not being compliant with doctors orders or a patient who does not "want our help". We as nurses cannot judge someone based off of documentation, lab values, illnesses, or the way they presented themselves at first. We as nurses need to rise to the occasion and ask why. Why do you, as the patient, not want to do this or why do you not want my help because then we will get answers. Maybe they are not the answers we are looking for or answers we want to hear but this plants the roots to a flower only we can help blossom.
When I took my nursing fundamentals class I was taught, we are the patients advocate, we look out for our patients best interest and their needs. While we advocate for medication, rehabilitation centers, or home health aides, how can we know what our patients actual needs are if we don't actually know our patients? Every patient on the floor needs medication whether it's a basic medication like Tylenol, or something more complex like a cephalosporin, and every patient has discharge needs whether its education or a place to go for rehabilitation, but what about them? We forgot that each patient is unique because we lost touch with what basic human needs are outside of medicine. Just imagine yourself standing in the middle of a crowded street, looking physically ill and feeling mentally exhausted, with hundreds of people passing you by with not one word being said to you. You'd feel trapped and alone.
I am not advocating that we take up a large portion of our time on the floor entertaining our patients because we have a job at hand with more than just one patient at a time, but I am advocating that every time, we have a patient, we get to know them just a little more every time we step into that room. We ask them those personal questions, beyond medicine, and we question their needs to further understand who they are. We are healers of the body and it is time to be healers of the mind.