Saturday, March 22, 2014

5 Lessons on Compassion We Can Learn From Nurses

This guest post comes from Sandra Mills, who writes about business and healthcare topics. Follow her on Twitter, @sandramills63.

Nearly 3 million nurses in the U.S. offer care to people of all ages and in various settings, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Everyday, nurses perform acts of compassion to reduce the stress of illness and injury. Adopting just a few of their skills in the home and workplace could make a big difference in the lives of people around you.

Compassionate Caring
There are two elements that make up compassionate nursing care, says Nursing Times. The first is mastery of the skills and procedures used with patients. The second is exercising those skills in a caring manner. You can be a technically competent nurse yet perform duties without compassion.

Putting this to use in your world means looking for opportunities to expand the impact of your expertise. When your task involves another person, how can you perform it so that both of you succeed? As an HR recruiter, you may have interviewed hundreds of people for positions in your company. How can you perform the next interview so that both you and the candidate go away feeling that it was a successful event? The person may not get the position, but they will leave the experience with something that could benefit them in their next interview.

Compassionate Listening
A good nurse is detail-oriented, and that includes listening for details in every conversation. Especially important are the things that aren't said. Most people are not accustomed to really being listened to. So they compensate by holding back information. A patient may respond to a question about pain with "Oh, I feel okay," when they are actually in pain. They don't want to appear weak or needy. The nurse might respond, "It sounds like you're in more pain than you're telling me. I'll get you something to help." This lets the patient know that they were heard, and it will improve future conversations.

If you manage staff in an office, you likely meet with individuals in your group to talk about their work and projects. You may have noticed one of them struggling with a task, yet when you ask if they need help, they tell you, "I have it covered." "Walk through your project with me and let's see where I can provide some help," is a way to show the person that you cared enough to listen to what they needed, behind the words they said.

Compassionate Smile
A smile is a simple gesture that nurses use to calm fears, reassure and let people know they are there to help. A nursing unit can become a very busy place and patients can feel isolated in their own problems. A smile from their nurse breaks that isolation and tells the patient that they haven't been forgotten.

Your smile is a reflection of your personality, and it can make a momentary connection with the people around you. It can become infectious. The person that bags your groceries at the supermarket might be having a bad day, and a smile from you with a simple, "Thank you so much for your help!" could be that bright spot that shifts their mood. They may pass that on to the next customer they help, creating a domino effect of compassionate gestures.

Compassionate Touch
There are times when a simple touch by another person completely changes a situation. Nurses know this and look for those moments when a hand placed on an arm or shoulder takes on a therapeutic role. A patient lies on a hospital cart, fearful of going into surgery. A nurse takes their hands into theirs and says, "I'll be with you throughout the whole procedure." The patient relaxes, feeling supported now by that simple act.

If you have children at home then you know how effective touch can be. At work, you can thank your staff for doing a good job. Or you can hold out your hand and shake theirs warmly as you thank them and convey a much stronger gratitude for their efforts. Your neighbor is telling you about just losing their job. A hand on their shoulder can say, "I'll share this grief with you in this moment," and create a feeling of connection in their isolation.

Compassion and Respect
Sometimes the compassionate thing to do is to acknowledge that you have no answers and to just hold space with a person. Nurses working in a hospice help people to remain as comfortable as possible in their final days. There is nothing the nurse can do to "fix" things. Quietly sitting with a hospice patient tells them "I respect that you have to go through this experience yourself. But I won't abandon you."

Your son comes home from school dejected because he wasn’t chosen for the football team. Your spouse comes home from work in tears because a co-worker was in a serious car accident the night before. Just sitting next to them quietly tells them, "I'll be right here if there is something I can do to help, and I will never be far away."

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