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The Importance of Compassionate Nursing

Having technical skills is important, but this doesn't mean that you should stop being compassionate.

Why Nurses Should Be Compassionate

Lately, nursing has come under fire for "losing" their compassionate touch when caring for patients. With widespread complaints about negligence in nursing homes, onlookers believe that the job should be revamped. Being compassionate does not require a high skill level. It's more important to be knowledgeable and technical when caring for patients. But, compassion is just as important as any other skill.

With older generations retiring, and the population steadily rising, nurses will be in more demand than ever. And with this increase in workload, compassion will have to come into play; no one but those who are completely committed to serving others and providing care to their patients should take on those responsibilities.

The importance of compassion in the workplace brought by Christie Watson, a registered nurse with 20 years of experience in the job, who turned to writing as a way to share what she thinks is the most important aspect of patient care: kindness.

In an excerpt from her book, she tries to explain the importance of kindness by writing about a time where she had to console a mother whose son, Aaron, was undergoing surgery. According to her, this moment was the “worst moment of my life. The worst.” She said, “I swear I’ll never underestimate how hard it must be to entrust your child’s life to strangers, no matter how expert they are.”

It would be a few hours until the procedure ended, where nurses can be seen in operating rooms, assisting doctors, while others remain with the parents, reassuring them, and informing them on how the operation is going. Watson was one of those nurses who stayed with the mother until the end.

After Aaron’s surgery was finished, Watson walked with the mother back to the ward, where she promptly started crying. The nurse stayed with her for a while, without speaking; she was only giving her comfort  when she could not or did not want to be alone. After some time, Watson looked at the clock, and said “it will be hours and hours,” referring to the procedure that Aaron had just endured. “You need to fill the time. I’ll head back shortly, to be with Aaron.” She smiled and left the mother, who was waiting for her sister to come keep her company.

But, Watson did not tell the mother what she wanted to hear. She did not tell her that everything was going to be okay. It was not by lack of intentions that she refrained from reassuring her. Words can inspire, as well as demoralize. In these situations, false hope can be atrocious for an anxious parent or loved ones who are just waiting to hear any news whatsoever. .

Your choice of words is highly important, a lesson Watson had to learn. On that occasion, she was lending support to a family whose baby was in the operating room for a straightforward surgery to fix a hole in his heart. “He’ll be fine,” she said, “He’ll be fine.” And, indeed, everything was fine for a while. However, when it comes to surgery, all it takes is one bad moment to lead to another one. Shortly after, the baby had passed away on the operating table. The family was taken aback; they were distraught and confused. If everything was going fine, how could their son pass away.

Watson was wrong, very wrong. She reported to the head nurse about her mistake, and then broke down in the nurses’ lounge. The head nurse came in shortly after to console her. “They won’t even remember what you told them,” she said. “It wouldn’t make any difference. You did nothing wrong.” But she would never forget.

She did not tell Aaron´s mom that he’ll be alright. Since that moment, he never uttered those words again when comforting expectant families. “None of us ever really know,” she says. Words can either make or break people in these situations. Since that moment, Watson had learned a valuable lesson about how compassion can help the families of patients keep strong while they wait. Now she tells them to keep busy. If they don’t, time will move slower; minutes will turn to hours, and the wait will become unbearable. If they keep busy, and remain patient, time will become shorter, and the long wait will become much more feasible for everyone involved.

In short, compassion is very much needed, especially in today’s work environments, where nurses are assigned to oversee countless patients, and are frequently underpaid for how important their roles often are. In this sense, caring for others becomes a noble endeavor that requires critical thinking, good judgment, and compassion. Those who aspire to fulfill this role must be interested in it, or else they risk getting burned out, being unable to support patients, or worse, putting the lives of others at risk.

As patients and bystanders, it is our responsibility to raise awareness of the importance of nurses, and to promote the profession as a noble endeavor, which is built upon the little acts of kindness they impart to patients every day. In order to address the nursing shortage currently running rampant in many areas of the countries, we need to encourage others to consider this trade as a career by offering innovative health programs that not only educate but transform humanity.