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DiversityNursing Blog

The Power of Compassion: Building Therapeutic Relationships with Patients

Posted by Carlos Perez

Fri, May 10, 2024 @ 10:27 AM

In the bustling world of healthcare, amidst the flurry of medical charts, diagnostic tests, and treatment plans, it's easy to overlook one of the most potent tools in a Nurse's arsenal; compassion. Yet, it's this quality that often makes the crucial difference in patient outcomes and satisfaction. Let's delve into the profound impact of compassionate care and explore strategies for fostering strong therapeutic relationships with patients and families, even amid challenging circumstances. 

Understanding the Impact of Compassionate Care

Compassion isn't just a warm fuzzy feeling; it's a fundamental aspect of quality healthcare delivery. Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of compassionate care on patient outcomes, including faster recovery times, reduced pain perception, and increased adherence to treatment plans. Moreover, patients who feel genuinely cared for are more likely to express satisfaction with their overall healthcare experience and develop trust in their healthcare providers.

Strategies for Cultivating Compassionate Connections

Listen with Empathy: Effective communication lies at the heart of compassionate care. Take the time to truly listen to your patients' concerns, fears, and preferences. Empathize with their emotions, validate their experiences, and offer support without judgment.

Practice Presence: In the midst of busy shifts and competing priorities, make a conscious effort to be fully present with each patient encounter. Maintain eye contact, use attentive body language, and demonstrate genuine interest in their well-being. Your presence alone can convey a sense of caring and reassurance.

Personalize Care: Recognize that each patient is a unique individual with distinct needs and preferences. Tailor your approach to match their cultural background, values, and communication style. Address them by their preferred name, inquire about their hobbies or interests, and involve them in shared decision-making whenever possible.

Show Kindness in Gestures: Small acts of kindness can have a significant impact on patients' perceptions of care. Offer a comforting touch, provide a warm blanket, or simply offer a listening ear during moments of distress. These gestures convey empathy and compassion in big ways.

Follow Up and Follow Through: Demonstrate your commitment to patients' well-being by following up on their concerns and ensuring continuity of care. Take the time to explain procedures, answer questions, and provide clear instructions for post-discharge self-care. Follow through on promises made, and be accessible for ongoing support.

Navigating Challenges with Compassion

Building therapeutic relationships isn't always easy, especially in high-stress or emotionally charged situations. However, even amid challenges, maintaining a compassionate approach can foster trust and understanding. When faced with difficult conversations or complex medical decisions, strive to approach each interaction with empathy, honesty, and respect.

Embracing the Heart of Nursing

In the fast-paced world of healthcare, it's easy to lose sight of the human element amidst the clinical complexities. Yet, it's precisely this human connection that lies at the core of Nursing. By embracing the power of compassion and building strong therapeutic relationships with patients and families, Nurses have the opportunity to not only enhance clinical outcomes but also to profoundly impact the lives of those they serve.

As Florence Nightingale said, "Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter's or sculptor's work." Let us continue to cultivate compassion as the cornerstone of our practice, enriching the lives of our patients one caring encounter at a time.

Topics: compassionate, nurse-to-patient, patient care, compassion, nurse patient relationship

Are You Worth Your Salt?

Posted by Pat Magrath

Mon, Jul 31, 2017 @ 11:16 AM

Values-1.jpgHappy Summer! We hope you’re enjoying your work, perhaps some time off, the weather, and your friends and family. I received this article in my inbox and thought it was perfect for you, our Nursing community, because it’s about how we approach our work and life. It’s about our principles, being appreciated, having balance in our life and more. Sometimes you just need to read something that makes sense and makes you feel good. Enjoy!

This article was written by Ron Culberson

Several years ago in Golf Digest magazine, I read a story about a young golfer named Charlie Siem. He was playing in a tournament and after making the winning putt, he bent down to retrieve his ball from the cup. Immediately, he realized that the ball in the cup was not his. At some point along the course, he had played the wrong ball.

Hitting the wrong ball in a golf tournament is grounds for disqualification. However, in Charlie’s case, no one else knew he had hit the wrong ball. Still, he presented the ball to the tournament officials and was promptly disqualified from a tournament he had just won.

This was a case of a young man’s principles guiding his decision—even though it was not an easy decision to make.

When I think of behavioral principles, I’m reminded of a phrase I heard as a child but had no idea what it meant. The phrase was, “He is worth his salt.”

As someone who cooks quite a bit, I didn’t think being compared to a cheap commodity like salt seemed particularly complimentary, but the phrase supposedly has its origins in ancient Rome where soldiers were paid in salt. At the time, salt was quite valuable.

And in the Christian
Bible, there are numerous references to salt. Most use salt as a metaphor about enhancing our lives the same way salt enhances food. Christians are supposed to be the “salt of the earth”, or to bring value to the world. Perhaps salt, like principles, is more valuable than I realized.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey said, “Principles are guidelines for human conduct that are proven to have enduring, permanent value.”

Principles are the way we carry ourselves through life and work, and essentially, they are our salt. Our principles are the seasoning that makes life better. So, I thought I would spend the next couple of articles focusing on the principles I have chosen to guide my life and work. Hopefully, by seeing them, you will think more purposefully about your own principles and how they season your life. Then, hopefully, we can all be worth our salt.

One morning, after getting dressed for a presentation, I got my second cup of coffee from the free hotel breakfast bar. As I sat the cup down on the desk in my hotel room, the lid slipped off of the cup. The cup bounced onto the desk back up in the air and then coffee spewed all over me and the floor. I did not have much of an “attitude of gratitude” at that particular moment. In fact, I recall a few “salty” words that were brewing in my head. And yet, after my initial irritation, I realized that there were many things for which I was grateful.

On that particular morning, I was grateful to be working. I was grateful to be in a decent hotel with a free breakfast. I was grateful for my client and the audience who ultimately appreciated my presentation, despite their wondering why the sleeve of my shirt was brown.

Here is the funny thing about appreciation. Sometimes it’s offered too routinely and we fail to recognize the sincerity. Just like the person who salts their food without tasting it, it’s automatic and not purposeful. True appreciation is sincere intentional gratitude for the good things in our lives and by reminding ourselves of this on a regular basis, life tastes a little better.

The simple truth is that when we have balance, we don’t fall down. And we need balance in most areas of our lives. We need balance between work and play. We need balance between people time and alone time. We need balance between our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual experiences. Otherwise, just as too much salt can mask the flavor of our food, we don’t get to experience the full variety of flavors in our lives.

One year, I had taken on too many volunteer jobs in my Rotary club, my church, and my professional association. I was spending nearly 15-20 hours each week just keeping up with my duties. It was affecting my work, my family life, and my health. So, I had to cut back a bit and become more selective in the roles I took on. This balance helped me to do a better job in each area of my life.

There is a common meditation practice called “Loving Kindness” which encourages us to both receive and give compassion. As someone who has a pretty active cynicism gland, this meditation is a wonderful reminder of the importance of compassion. In every situation, a compassionate attitude will give us more success and add substance to our relationships. Whether we’re opening a door for someone, saying “thank you” for a kind gesture, or just offering a smile to a stranger, kindness born out of compassion connects our hearts to others. Whenever I remind myself to consider what someone else might be experiencing, I always feel kinder towards them.

A few days ago, I mentioned to a women tending a hotel buffet that the sausage gravy was really good. And as a southerner, I told her that I know my sausage gravy. Her face lit up as if I had given her a great gift. She worked hard on her buffet items and was grateful that someone noticed.

We live in a world where negativity and aggression get the most attention. We can turn that around with a kind word and a generous spirit. Instead of “give me the salt,” perhaps we can say, “please pass the salt…and thank you.”

As the author of
Do it Well. Make it Fun., I chose excellence as the foundation of my book. If we seek excellence in everything we do, we create a platform of integrity on which to build our success. But we may not always know what we need to do to achieve excellence.

When I took a motorcycle safety course in 2001, I assumed that I knew everything about riding a motorcycle because I had owned one in college. And since a motorcycle only has two wheels, I couldn’t imagine that there was that much to learn. Once I got into the class however, I discovered there were things I didn’t know I didn’t know. The class opened my eyes to my knowledge deficits.

Unless someone gives us feedback or points out our mistakes, we will never discover where we need to improve on the road to excellence. When I worked as the Director of Quality Service at Hospice of Northern Virginia, we used a 360-degree performance evaluation process. In other words, for my yearly review, I was evaluated by my boss, my peers, and the people I supervised. It was certainly an unnerving process but it was one of the most helpful ways to find out my strengths and where I needed to improve. In all areas of our lives, if we strive to determine where we need to get better as employees, parents, partners, neighbors, etc., then we really can enhance the days of our lives…like salt through the hourglass (a few of you will know that obscure reference!)

When I was offered my first management job, I realized that two of the people I would be supervising were my peers from a previous job. In order to manage the department effectively, I needed to make sure I treated them fairly and that the other employees felt they were also being treated fairly. So, we talked about it before I took the job and agreed we could make it work. However, if my other staff had felt that I favored my former colleagues, my ability to supervise would have been compromised.

The concept of justice is based on fairness. None of us wants to be treated unfairly. We don’t want someone else to get a discount at the store when we’re not eligible. We want our children to get the same opportunities as other children. And we don’t like it when people who have more seem to get away with even more. Fairness is the basis for effective organizations and relationships. Every time we make a decision that affects other people, we might ask ourselves, “Is this fair to everyone involved?” It’s an ideal embraced by Rotary International and a good principle for the rest of us. When someone treats us fairly, we believe that they really are worth their salt.

Hopefully, these principles will help you think about your own principles and how you can “walk the talk” in your own life. Please know that my own process of living my principles is a work in progress. But isn’t that what life is all about? We’re on the journey just trying to make the next day a little better…or saltier! 

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Topics: appreciation, compassion, values, principles, balance

Compassion is Paramount in Infusion Nursing

Posted by Pat Magrath

Mon, Oct 31, 2016 @ 11:37 AM



Infusion nurses are registered nurses who specialize in administering medications and fluids via infusion. They monitor patients, manage their tubing, maintain arterial catheters and stay aware of potential drug complications. It’s a unique specialty, requiring high levels of technical skill and excellent bedside (or in many cases with infusion nursing, “chairside”) manner.

For nurses who are looking for a career change or students planning their next step after graduation, infusion nursing is a promising option. It’s also an increasingly popular specialty. According to Healthcare Traveler, the demand for infusion nurse services is expected to rise 26 percent by 2020, due in part to new medical technologies, the aging of America and several anticipated cost-saving initiatives required by the Affordable Care Act.

Flexibility, adaptability and quick thinking are keys to excelling in the ever-evolving world of infusion nursing, where nurses must be prepared to both work autonomously and be a part of interdisciplinary teams.

“Although it’s a difficult specialty, the most important characteristic of infusion nursing is a strong sense of compassion,” said Linda Ankrom MSN, MHA, RN, an infusion nurse in Pittsburgh, Pa. “If you have the passion to care for others, the rest can be taught. The skills can be developed, and nurse mentors will guide you along your career, but the most important thing is that you’re truly invested in being a nurse and caring for others.”

Infusion nurses have a particular opportunity to work closely with patients and their families during difficult, sometimes painful, parts of their treatment. Ankrom notes a big part of the infusion nursing role is to educate patients and their families about their care. It requires translating complicated medical knowledge into terms that patients (even pediatric patients) can understand. Ankrom often encourages her nurses to open up to their patients in order to develop a stronger relationship.

“Nurses are not trained to talk about themselves, but I always tell my nurses to talk to their patients,” she said, “Tell them about where you are from, what you’ve studied and even what experiences you many have had with being an infusion patient yourself. These stories help build a relationship with the patient.”

Infusion nurses practice in any setting where patients receive medication or fluid infusion treatments, including hospitals, long-term care centers, clinics and home health agencies. During her career, Ankrom has worked in many of these settings, but currently works in an outpatient clinic.  Outpatient clinics can be a valuable option for patients with an ongoing condition that requires regular infusion treatments.

“One of the benefits of an outpatient setting is the disease doesn’t become my patient’s entire life,” said Ankrom. “They can get treatment and be home in time for after-school activities. For people with chronic illness, having to constantly go in and out of the hospital can be very demanding. An outpatient clinic helps them have more control over their care.”          

After nearly 20 years of practicing nursing, Ankrom still lights up about her chosen specialty.

“There’s a million rewards to being an infusion nurse, but the number one thing is bringing a sense of calm, peace and hope to a patient.”

To learn more about infusion nursing, check out Ankrom’s interview in the Campaign’s new “Day in the Life” video below or her interview on Nursing Notes Live. 

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Topics: compassion, infusion nursing

When Nurses Bond With Their Patients

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Wed, Oct 02, 2013 @ 11:10 AM

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As nurses we are taught that we are professionals and we must maintain a certain emotional distance with our patients. It’s a boundary that encompasses the therapeutic relationship: nurses as caregivers, patients as the recipients of the care. But now, working as a nurse, I have found that while most of my professional boundaries are well defined, sometimes the line between a professional and personal relationship with a patient can become blurred.
Sarah Horstmann, R.N.

I work on an orthopedic surgical unit where most patients are coming in and going out very frequently. That makes it hard to get to know anyone too well. But there are some patients that we never forget, for good or bad reasons. Most of the time these patients stay with us because, for whatever reason, one of us crossed the invisible boundary nurses set for themselves.

Recently, I cared for two patients who touched me so deeply it was impossible to maintain a professional distance. My grandfather had recently passed away, and both of these men reminded me of him. My grandfather, or “Grand-Daddy” as we all called him, was one-of-a-kind, and one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. He was hard of hearing but constantly fiddled around with his hearing aids, so it was wise to always be prepared to repeat yourself once or twice. He had an extraordinary memory until the day he died, and was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.

One day at work, an older man arrived on my floor after a total hip replacement. As I worked to admit him to our care, his room was crowded with half a dozen family members who surrounded him with love. I asked him about his family, and he told me about his eight children, 30 grandchildren, and a couple of great-grandchildren too. It was uncanny how much this man reminded me of my grandfather, who also had a large family of six children, 28 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

I smiled as I watched my patient fiddle with his hearing aids, and tears welled up in my eyes as he answered all of my questions with a familiar, “What did you say?” I didn’t mind repeating myself, and for a moment, it was as if I was speaking with my grandfather again.

After I was finished admitting him and settling him in, I found myself constantly peeking back into his room asking if he was O.K. and if he needed anything. He was pretty low-maintenance and never really needed much, and eventually, he was gone. I never told him that he reminded me of my grandfather, or how he tugged at my heartstrings, and I often wonder if I should have. But I worried that in showing this man a little extra attention, I had somehow breached the therapeutic relationship.

Not long after that, another patient came up to the floor. The report said he was an older man who was in “comfort care.” This essentially means that no lifesaving efforts would be made on his behalf; we were there to keep him comfortable during his final days. When this patient came up to the floor, I was quite taken by him. His gruff, Irish exterior belied his sweet nature. Medically, he had a lot of issues, but when he came up to the floor, the only thing he wanted was a bowl of oatmeal. When his tray came, he found cream of wheat instead. He was so disappointed, but I was determined to find him a bowl of oatmeal.

Miraculously, after a search through our floor kitchen, I found oatmeal and delivered it to him. He was delighted and blew me a kiss and gave me a wink. His chart said he needed assistance to eat, but he dug right in. Sure, he made a mess, but he managed just fine on his own.

Watching him eat that oatmeal reminded me of some of my last meals with Grand-Daddy. Grand-Daddy never was the neatest eater, and we would always laugh about what a mess he made. But he didn’t care — at his age, he just wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. My patient’s personality was strikingly similar to that of my grandfather. As he lay curled up in the bed, I thought about the strong man he must have been a long time ago.

When his wife and children came to the room, I felt a pang of familiarity. His wife remained so graciously composed during her visits. It brought back memories of my grandmother during my grandfather’s last days. Despite her deep sadness and fear of what was to come, my grandmother kept full composure and took care of not only him but also everyone around her. I still am amazed by how strong and selfless she was during that time: a true role model for unconditional love, and I saw these saintly qualities in this man’s wife.

The following day, the man was sent back to a nursing home where comfort care would be resumed. When the transporters came to get him, I started to feel emotional, like someone I loved was going to leave me. Even though I knew he was going to a nice and comfortable facility, I didn’t want him to go. We transferred him onto the stretcher and I made him cozy in his blankets. His family was sincerely thankful, and I remember telling them with tears in my eyes how much we enjoyed taking care of him, and how much we would miss him.

The tears continued to well up as I watched his stretcher go around the corner and out of sight, because I knew I would never see him again. I felt like I was saying goodbye not only to him, but also to my grandfather all over again. But once again, I stopped myself from sharing these feelings with my patient or his family. They knew I cared, but they never knew how much caring for him meant to me personally.

Looking back, I still don’t know if I did the right thing, keeping my feelings to myself. I now realize that both of these patients were helping me heal, even as I was helping them. Watching them leave was like letting go of my grandfather again, but they also gave me the gifts of laughter and reminiscence, right when I needed them most.

I know that, ultimately, I am still just the nurse, and they are still just my patients. But I think it’s better for both the patients and myself if we both sometimes allow ourselves to feel something more than a professional bond. Nurses and patients move in and out of each others’ lives so quickly, but we are nonetheless changed by every encounter.

I became a nurse because I want to care for people and make a difference. Being touched in return is an added bonus.

Source: The New York Times

Topics: professional vs personal, nurse, patient, care, compassion

A Seasoned Nurse

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Mon, Sep 23, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

By Joyce Riddle, RN-CPN, BSN

Nurse with elder male resized 600

One day, as I was relaxing during some quiet time, it dawned on me that I was a seasoned nurse with the ability to influence some of my younger or less-experienced co-workers. I have worked as an RN for the same organization for 23 years, and I had something to offer them.

Too often, older nurses are seen as being a bit crotchety, negative or uncaring to some of the younger nurses or newbies. That has to change; why make people feel uncomfortable?

Years ago, as a new nurse, I went through an orientation to the unit. Once competent with some skills, I became the team leader for my patients. If I had questions, I knew I could ask my charge nurse, but I never had a mentor or felt there was one particular nurse to whom I could always turn. I knew I wanted to become that go-to person for my younger counterparts. I enjoyed teaching and helping new employees master skills and tasks.

I am a spiritual person with Christian beliefs. This is part of what makes me who I am. On my commute to work, I get motivated for the day by listening to Christian music. I understand others may not share similar beliefs, but I think everyone needs to find what fulfills them and practice it daily before work, whether it is exercising, reading or just spending time alone.

Make it a point to bring your best to work each day. After all, that is what we are getting paid to do. Once at work, acknowledge everyone with a smile, eye contact or a simple "hello." I've seen how acts of inclusion or kindness filter down to others. On occasion, unfamiliar colleagues may come by my unit and I smile at them, furthering the process of encouragement to others. Kindness can be contagious.

My mantra or focus is to encourage young nurses so they will establish themselves at our facility and become great, seasoned nurses. I have watched some start out as new graduate nurses and then continue their education and grow professionally. I have seen many nurses come and go, but others stay and continue with their education. I support my co-workers who decide to go this route.

For the longest time, I talked myself out of obtaining my certification in pediatric nursing. Once I chose to pursue it, I immediately wondered why I waited so long. Now I routinely ask my co-workers, "When are you going to do it?" Supporting them and encouraging their growth adds more satisfaction to my daily work. It will be gratifying when all my immediate co-workers obtain and maintain their CPNs.

We all have different strengths we can bring to work. Some nurses have a soft touch. Others have a friendly smile or a knack for speaking kind words. All of these can be examples of conduct for the young nurse. 

Remember, just like young children who watch and mimic their parents, the newbies are watching our responses toward one another and our patients. Positive expressions are necessary for their growth.

Before speaking or doing something, I ask myself, "Is this going to encourage or discourage?" I want to know I am encouraging someone to be a better nurse. I will not gossip or make any unkind comments toward my co-workers for the newbie to hear. The younger nurses will not overhear derogatory comments from this veteran.

Every day, I tell myself with pride, "I am a seasoned nurse." I will embrace that I am a little older and more experienced, and will welcome opportunities to use that experience. I hope my seasoned co-workers will join me to make our jobs productive by helping our younger nurses. We all have something to contribute to foster hope and encouragement. 


Topics: encouragement, experience, RN, veteran, compassion

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