June 13, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
During your time in nursing school, you will acquire the scientific knowledge, technical skills and leadership attributes that are necessary to make you a good nurse. From a purely healthcare point of view, that may be enough to ensure that on your watch, all patients will receive the best possible medical care.
A great nurse however, will take it one step further. In addition to all of the above qualities, a great nurse adds a personal touch to the job. More often than not, it is not the nurse who is coldly efficient who will be remembered by patients after they leave the hospital or clinic. Instead, patients are more likely to remember a nurse who is also empathetic, compassionate and selfless, putting their patients above personal considerations. It’s in the small things – a touch, a smile or a kind word. It takes all of a few seconds to just be kind and compassionate to a patient.
It’s only natural to question the importance of compassion and empathy in nursing. After all, it is the knowledge of medicine that is the key to treating the patient, isn’t it? While it is a fact that academic proficiency is an important aspect of being a nurse, it’s only one part of it. Showing empathy and compassion are the intangible qualities that make a good nurse great.
Apart from pregnant women who come into hospital for their delivery or people who come in for cosmetic procedures, all other patients who are in the healthcare setting are not there voluntarily. Most patients are frightened and have a lot on their mind, not least of all thoughts of losing their health and possibly their lives. They are also worried about their loved ones. They know they have no control over what will happen next and that alone can be scary for anyone. A little compassion and support and just knowing that there is somebody there who is concerned about them and will do everything to help them, can help calm patients down and make them more accepting of treatment. It will in fact make your job easier too.
As a nurse you will come across patients from all cultural, religious and societal backgrounds. Every patient will come in with their own ideologies and beliefs. It’s impossible to agree with every patient’s point of view. What matters however is that you make a concerted effort to listen to them and attempt to understand their challenges. This is not the time or place to form biases that could cloud your judgment.
How selfless should you be to qualify as a great nurse? Surprisingly, it’s again in the small things. It’s impossible and impractical to ask any nurse to always, under any circumstances, put the patient first while completely ignoring their own health and well-being. However, you can be a hero to your patients in little ways – missing lunch to hold a frightened patient’s hand, waiting with the patient beyond your shift time till their care giver arrives, taking the time to read a story to your paediatric patient…Not very hard for a nurse, but it can make a world of a difference to the patient.
Why settle for being a good nurse? A little effort is all it takes to be a great one.